James Perrin

Are Google Trying to Appease the Germans?

7th Apr 2011 News, Industry News 2 minutes to read

At a time when Google seems to be in and out of the European courts more times than Charlie Sheen in rehab, it does come as a bit of a surprise they have announced a $5 million investment in a German Solar Power Plant.

So what’s it all about? Why was Germany chosen as the first recipient of a grant for solar power outside the United States? Well, as was pointed out to me by  my esteemed colleague Steve, Google has a little bit of previous when it comes to our North Sea neighbours. Whilst this is by no means their first sizeable investment in renewable energy, the potential for a scurrilous conspiracy is certainly there.

Google have had a bit of a torrid time in Europe recently. On Monday, the Swiss courts demanded a higher level of censorship within Google Street View; meaning that all faces and license plates must be unrecognisable. Google have got previous on the issue of privacy in Germany too.

Street view in Germany has been a major talking point. They had to stall the launch last year over privacy concerns, and whilst Street View is now live in Germany, the opt-out seems to be a popular feature amongst German users. Moreover, the issue of Google analytics has plagued the search engine giant as German privacy protection officials are not happy with their conduct.

Last month The German Regional Data Protection Authority said that Google have violated Germany Privacy laws. The use of Google Analytics and tracking data without notifying users was said to be in violation of the German Data Protection Act (DPA). Furthermore, it was said that Google must receive consumer consent if they want to transfer the data collected outside Germany or the European Union. A lot more was revealed within the investigation, but interestingly no action was taken, not yet anyway.

Finally, Google also have had to contend with a Copyright case in Hamburg, and unfortunately for them, they lost. The ruling means they are liable for uploaded videos that infringe copyright laws in Germany.

Law suits, court cases, investigations, accusations of copyright and privacy violations, it seems that Germany have a few issues with search engine Goliath. So when I read a story today regarding Google’s $5 million investment in a Solar Power Plant, my ears stood up and I couldn’t help but think, why?

Is this a case of appeasing Germany, their authorities and consumers? Corporate responsibility is high on any multinationals agenda at present, with many companies looking to offset carbon omissions and maintain good Public Relations.

After reading just some of the lawsuits, court cases and investigations into them on behalf of officials in Germany, it’s hard to blame Google. To be fair, it’s not the first time that they’ve invested heavily in solar energy and other renewable technologies; although all previous instances have been confined to the United States.

So maybe this is just a pleasant coincidence. Google creates thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions through its numerous servers, so have to do more to help develop cleaner ways to produce this energy. So why Germany? Why not?

Still, it does make for a decent conspiracy and a fair heaping of (rare) positive publicity for Google’s European operations.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with oiling the PR and political wheels a little either; let’s be honest, it happens all the time, and at least this has wider public benefits. As always though, your thoughts are more than welcome.

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