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The battle of 'Europe vs Google' could be important for those in legal jobs in Paris

Posted by: Laurence Simons 16/10/12

Quick test: go and search for 'fun law news' on the internet. In Europe, a good 90 per cent of you will have gone straight to Google. Maybe one of you would have used Bing. The rest would have known that there is no such thing as fun law news and so will not have bothered.

But it's the first bit that is the problem. As the Guardian revealed this week, the EU is demanding search engine giant Google unravel its latest Europe-wide privacy policy which mashes together the various user agreements from Google's various online ventures - Gmail, YouTube, and Chrome, among others - into one catch-all policy. But that's not the only beef Google and 'the whole of Europe' is involved in: the company is currently negotiating a settlement to put its results pages in line with antitrust policy that would see the firm shell out a substantial fee as well as put a 'label' on any of its own products that may turn up on results pages. Basically, Europe is trying really hard to make sure Google doesn't turn into a monopoly. This is: important.

This is important because both the antitrust wranglings and the transparency dealings that Google is involved in through Europe are likely to make their way to the US - the Federal Trade Commission is already reportedly preparing an antitrust probe - and, in turn, to other digital powerhouses. Which, in the grand scheme of digital law, is still unfounded territory.

"The point is that Google is an international company which is leveraging its power in the browser and its other services in a way that affects national businesses all over the EU," said CMS Cameron McKenna privacy partner Chris Watson, in comments to the Guardian. "There's great political importance in the data protection commissioners doing something, because if they think there's a breach and they don't do anything about it, what's the point of having them?"

But one thing this whole to-do could end up doing is costing Google money, and not just in fines and fees. With Europe unleashing one of its most aggressive data protection commissioners on Google in the form of the French CNIL, it seems the investigation is being launched with the intent of changing rather than settling.

And making enforced changes to the way Google does business could hamper the company: since March, the combined user data Google has collected from those who use YouTube, Gmail and the rest has led to better targeted advertising, which in turn leads to more clicks, which in turn leads to more revenue. Take that away, and it could cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

What is Google doing to counter this? Well, it's assumed those occupying in-house lawyer jobs at the company are getting suited and booted. But as TechWeek Europe reports, the firm advertised for a new privacy engineer to occupy its Red Team following a $22.5 million fine from the FTC made last year after a Safari browser hoo-hah. Making hires that add that extra level of scrutiny to privacy proceedings could be more important for a number of tech companies once the Europe vs Google storm that is brewing blows over and that could well include those in legal jobs as well as engineers.