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Not a Good Sign

December 2, 2010

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’m both an admirer and decrier of Google.  They’re a leader in terms of consumer mindshare, and they’re probably one of three companies that can take the lead over time.  I’ve often said that my biggest concerns are the fact that Google seems to think that it plays by other rules than the rest of the world, and also that they’ve not been tested in court enough to stand up against a heavy legal challenge.

Well, this isn’t a good sign, then.

Google Inc. has acknowledged that it trespassed when it took a photo of a Pittsburgh-area house for its Street View service, but will pay only $1 in damages to a couple who sued.

A Google spokeswoman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which first reported the parties had agreed to the judgment, that the settlement is limited to the Borings [who were the plaintiffs].

“We are pleased that this lawsuit has finally ended with plaintiffs’ acknowledgment that they are entitled to only $1,” Google said in a statement to The Associated Press, adding that its ability to continue the Street View feature is unaffected.

Okay, so you lost a stupid lawsuit against someone willing to sue you and lose money, just on principle?  Yep, that’s Google in a nutshell.  If you read the story, the couple initially just wanted an apology, but Google forced them to take it all the way to court.  That’s not a savvy play.  As I’ve said before, you need to pick your battles.

This is especially problematic in light of the fact that Europe is all over Google for anti-trust.  The Register has a solid overview of that suit.  But essentially this is Europe — which has a pretty good record — going after a large company, and it’ll prove to be a test case for everyone else who thinks they see a weakness in Google as a result.

I work at a large company that goes to great pains to educate its entire employee base on how to avoid legal pratfalls.  Certain words in an e-mail that’s later captured as evidence can turn a whole case.  I haven’t seen Google (or, for that matter, a bevy of other tech companies) work that hard to educate its employees.  That’s going to hurt in a big case, and the fact that Google isn’t winning the little ones (or avoiding them, which is probably the bigger issue) says to me that there’s trouble ahead.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 3, 2010 6:25 pm

    huh. interesting.

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