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Google is taking political steps towards EU regulators

8 February 2011 BY

We’ve said it before, we will be missing Eric Schmidt when he finally steps down as CEO of Google in a few months. But he is still here. And he doesn’t seem to feel any need at all to stop adding quotes to his already impressive list.

This weekend he apparently told the UK Newspaper The Sunday Telegraph that Google might be willing to make changes to their algorithm methodology. This time it is not a ‘scary’ quote, but to say the least an interesting statement. It is another sign of Google getting more and more political with their moves.

The original article doesn’t literally quote Schmidt saying they would be willing to, but the indication is there. Google told Searchengineland that even though Schmidt didn’t literally say it like that it is not unthinkable, after all, Google already changes their algorithm often. And in some cases because of complaints. It is therefore possible that Google might make changes based on concerns from the EU. Still, if Google does make those changes, it would be very interesting since it would be changes made because of regulations-complaints, not complaints from a business. Whether or not Google really will make any changes remains to be seen. For now the fact that they are hinting at it may be enough.

Schmidt might have talked in this direction because of potential difficulties he could be expecting from the European Union. The EU is currently looking at antitrust matters concerning Google. There is no feedback on this case from the EU towards Google so far, the investigation is still in progress.

The investigation was done by a group of three companies who were in one way or another closely related to Microsoft. Something which now is suddenly more interesting with the Bing-accusations fresh in mind (be sure to catch the talk about this with Danny Sullivan tonight on Webmasterradio). The three sites, Foundem, Ciao and Ejustice, claimed they were possibly being penalized by Google and went to the Commission.

In the interview Schmidt said that he would be open for any suggestions or remedies the European Commission would bring up. This could include changing their algorithm. He hastened to say that any changes could not include changes which could allow spam sites to get more powerful. Original content continues to be important.

Schmidt said to the Telegraph that Google’s tactics when it comes to the EU are different than how Microsoft handled their ‘issues’. Where Microsoft went for the battle Google seems to go for the cooperative direction. Schmidt said:

“We understand we play a major role in Europe and we’re not denying that. We have a lot of meetings with appropriate government officials.”

So Schmidt is taking the way of cooperation. But does he realize what he is doing here? Europe and the US are very different, especially when it comes to regulations in these kind of matters. In Europe they tend to be more strict. Which means that it could very well be that the demands towards Google will be very high. Will Google be able to fulfill all the requests? Or will Google just be answering the EU’s questions and in the end not make a single change?

And is Google really ready to open up their algorithm to regulators? Even though they say they are only ‘open for suggestions’ any suggestions that the EU would be doing will have to be answered with a yes or no and a why. That could possibly lead to insights into their algorithms. And were does it end?

It is interesting however how Google makes this move towards the EU. It could set some standards and it shows that Google really is taking a different stand when it comes to the ‘outside’ world. They are trying to get the ‘do no evil’ image back.

That also shows in another issue Schmidt addressed, which is of bigger concern in Europe than in the US, Google Streetview.

“It is reality that when we release products we have to be sensitive to regulatory and privacy issues. It eventually gets resolved, and in the case of StreetView, resolved quite positively. The days when we could just ship a product are gone.”

Google is thinking in political terms more and more. What are they up to?

AUTHORED BY:
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Bas van den Beld is a speaker, trainer and online marketing strategist. Bas is the founder of Stateofdigital.com. -- You can hire Bas to speak, train or consult.
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