Google’s Schmidt tries to avoid clashes with EU regulators

February 7, 2011, 10:49 PM UTC
Image representing Eric Schmidt as depicted in...
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In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the Google Chairman said he’d do just about anything to avoid investigations, even change its search algorithms.

Google’s (GOOG) outgoing CEO was candid on the company’s trouble with EU investigators, which seem to be sniffing around just about every business the search and services goliath gets into these days.  From the relatively benign car data gathering, to its possible abuse of power in search and advertising, nothing is off the table.

Google could be willing to change some of its algorithm methodology in search, but will not countenance anything, which could allow spam sites to climb to the top of search results. Google carefully guards how it ranks search to prevent sites with little original content forcing their way into top rankings.

The Telegraph notes that Google has learned from Microsoft’s folly.  Hopefully Intel’s(INTC) expensive troubles in the EU can also serve as a guide. Microsoft (MSFT) tried to take on the EU over browser and OS tie-ups and ended up paying record (at the time – thanks Intel) fines and spending untold amounts of time in courts.  The resulting browser voting bar has caused Microsoft to lose its majority share in browsers.

Google clearly doesn’t want to go down this path.  Asked directly whether he envisaged a similar type of battle ahead, Schmidt said:

“We certainly want to avoid that. I think it is in our interests and I would hope in their interests to do a quick analysis of concerns that have been raised by competitors, hopefully they are minor or they are not correct, and we’ll find out and make sure we are operating well within the law and the spirit of the law.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.”

Schmidt also offered up a refined approval process at Google which will get lawyers and privacy experts involved long before products ever go public, something that may slow down releases overall, but will  give Google better tools to deal with privacy implications of its products.

Interestingly, Microsoft now is a protagonist in EU courts, often working by proxy in its complaints against Google.