In France, Google has been fined €100,000 for collecting data from wireless networks with their Latitude Program and Street view, had a privacy dispute with the embarrassing Frenchman picture/Street View case, and was taken to court by a map-making company who filed an unfair competition complaint against Google for providing a service for free that they charge for - Google was fined €500,000.
In Germany, the Street View was received with great skepticism and concern over privacy before it was eventually accepted, and across the EU as well as in the US, the company is being investigated for antitrust concern. We have written about these various cases and will continue to do so because as Google is the undisputed leader in the search industry, what they are dealing with matters for SEO companies and the industry at large.
Now, the company has officially acknowledged two other inquiries that are currently ongoing in two other countries, Argentina and South Korea. Google has had its share of issues already in South Korea, as last year government officials searched the company's office as part of an investigation into Street View data collection. Now, the Korea Fair Trade Commission has an inquiry that began last year on the business practices of the company. In South America, the Argentinian Competition Commission is conducting a preliminary investigation into the company's search and advertising, and Google is cooperating fully in the inquiry.
According to The Washington Post, Argentina's antitrust agency began their investigation in November of 2010 to establish if their presumably dominant position in the search and ad industries precludes other players from gaining any relevant market share. Additionally, the El Cronista newspaper made a report last year the agency was investigating whether or not Google accepted money in return for increasing certain website rankings. This last speculation is a hefty one and it is unclear if the agency is actually investigating such an issue.
Businesses looking to optimize their websites and additional properties in social media and other areas need to keep an eye on Google and understand how the latest legal dealings could impact search going forward. To a large extent, Google is bearing the brunt of legal ramifications that come from being the industry leader in a constantly evolving industry. As I have written before, the company's technologies are challenging legal frameworks in new ways and not until the new applications of existing laws to all of the internet's activities have been worked out, will Google settle in and be moving forward without such constant litigation. In the meantime, search engine optimization consultants and others in the industry are evaluating how legal decisions and pressure impact their services for the businesses that use them.