Here’s a bit of background for you, from the New York Times. French company Navx wants to advertise with Google. Navx customers, according to Google, were being given tools by Navx that would allow them to act illegally. Google says that what Navx is advertising goes against the Google standards, and therefore Google refuses to offer advertising space to Navx. This should be a simple deal, but it goes way deeper than we’ve seen until this point.
The French Competition Authority has now ruled that Google, in its choices, would cause irreparable damage to Navx and is acting as a monopoly. Never mind the fact that there are literally thousands of other outlets upon which Navx could advertise. Google’s size and dominance in search engine advertising revenue sets it apart in this case.
In fact, according to the case in point, Google’s growth in keyword advertising has put it into a position where it must act nearly as a “government agency”. As such, the company will be required to lay out specific and clear rules, in advance, that explain its policies that govern what businesses may advertise with it.
Google is arguing, conversely, that advertising is advertising regardless of medium. In this mindset, Google is far from the only choice, and would not be operating in a monopoly. The French authorities, however, have rejected the argument.
From the ruling:
“Google holds a dominant position on the advertising market related to online searches. Its search engine enjoys a wide popularity and currently totals around 90 percent of the Web searches made in France. Moreover, there are strong barriers to entry for this activity.”
The Times article brings out some very good points. Among them, and arguably the most pressing, is the idea that Google will now have to have public policy on who can advertise via the search engine. Though it seems to make sense, the danger is in setting a precedent. At what point, then, does that necessity stop?
In example, let’s say that I’m a locksmith working in France. I’m so good at my job that nearly all of the work for locksmithing comes to me. But I refuse to work with any business that goes against my moral standards. At what point is my business considered a monopoly within the world of locksmithing, and then I am forced to either work against an ethical code, or lay out firm rules regarding it, in advance?
The French authorities, in this case, have set that precedent. From this point forward, Google will have to tread lightly in the area of selectivity regarding its advertisers, else it find itself directly back in the same position.
[It is worthy to note that, in the original NYT article, there is a statement made by the author that is somewhat misleading. The original statement of "those using search terms like “radar trap” in French could no longer learn of the company’s product and, a few clicks later, buy it" leads the reader to believe that Google is eliminating Navx's results from search. In reality, the case in question is simply about advertising, not search in general.]