A double-edged sword for Google
In 2006, Google went to bat to protect consumer data privacy in the United States but was criticized for bowing to government pressure in China after it released a censored version of its Chinese Web search site.
For years, privacy advocates have warned that consumer data on the Web is threatened by overzealous law enforcement types, and this fear was realized publicly in early 2006. Google was the only one of the major Internet search engines to challenge a federal subpoena seeking search records.
Federal prosecutors said they needed the data on searched terms and Web sites crawled, but a judge later said search queries were off-limits and halved the number of Web addresses in the Google index that the search giant would have to release.
Meanwhile, Google launched versions of its search and news Web sites in China that censor material deemed objectionable to authorities there, reasoning that giving limited access to content is better than no access.
The United Nations blasted Cisco Systems, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft for cooperating with the Chinese government, as did members of the U.S. Congress and Amnesty International. Singled out for the harshest attacks was Yahoo, which is accused of providing Web data that led to the conviction of a journalist in China and the arrest of at least one other Chinese citizen.
In August, AOL inadvertently released on the Web the search histories of more than 650,000 of its subscribers for a three-month period. Although the users were anonymous, the searches--many of them highly sensitive in nature--were detailed enough as to be able to be tied back to the searcher.
Google continued its buying spree, acquiring Web word-processing company Upstartle, JotSpot, which offers technology that lets people build collaborative Web pages called wikis and radio advertising company DMarc Broadcasting, among others.
But the company's biggest acquisition to date was its $1.65 billion stock purchase of video-sharing Web site YouTube. Google also pledged to pay $900 million to News Corp.'s MySpace.com in exchange for search and advertising listings on the popular social-networking site.
Google was also sued over click fraud in a case that settled for $90 million. And it was sued over trademark issues in search-related ads. One such suit filed by Rescuecom was dismissed, while a French court ruled against Google in another such suit, filed by Louis Vuitton Malletier.
Google also was sued by Belgian publishers who claim its linking to their news stories on Google News violates copyright. Google
settled with suing journalists and photographers groups, but Copiepresse, a group representing French- and German-language newspapers in Belgium, is still pressing its case.
Google continued to parlay its dominance in the search market into profits, while its closest rival, Yahoo, saw its third-quarter earnings fall from a year ago. Google's stock rose steadily throughout the year, finally surpassing $500 a share in late November, before pulling back a bit.
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