Google risks the same European fate as Microsoft
Published Sunday, 04 March 2012 13:08 | Written by John Gapper
Google’s stance against the European Commission on the subject of privacy – rolling out its new policy for sharing personal data among its sites despite warnings that it may breach European law – strikes me as foolhardy.
US companies that get into a tangle with the EU, often egged on by US supporters who believe that European regulators are over-reaching their powers, tend to come off worse from the struggle. The prime example was Microsoft in its anti-trust battle during the mid-2000s.
The pattern is in danger of being repeated; with supporters of internet freedoms such as Jeff Jarvis of City University of New York criticizing the EU action and arguing that it is part of a pattern of government attempts at misguided regulation.
There is certainly plenty to debate in the EU proposals such as “the right to be forgotten”, but at a tactical level I don’t have much faith in a full-frontal assault on Brussels in the hope that it will eventually bend.
That may have worked in the US with the uprising against the Sopa and Pipa anti-piracy bills, but the social context is different in Europe. In countries such as Germany, there is plenty of concern about privacy, and the EU is not isolated.
It also has a record of remaining obstinate in the face of a public campaign. I remember Microsoft’s evident frustration at not being able to shift the anti-trust division, which meant that it paid a series of eye-watering fines.
I wonder if Google wants to become a second Microsoft?