If you were Google, you might be forgiven for wondering what’s in the water that is prompting the world to hate you quite as much as they are this week. The answer is easy… a goal of owning and managing the worlds data to your own advantage is getting folks a little jumpy. In a crowded week for Google haters, the launch of the very cool Google Glass product is getting push back from state legislators who are already pushing to make them illegal for driving to casino operators who are already banning them from the gaming floor. Civil rights groups and privacy activists are forming strange bedfellows with bar operators and strip club proprietors against these devices. None of this stops me wanting to buy a pair (as long as they come in my prescription).
At the same time, a ground swell against Glass is getting underway. Monopoly regulators in Europe are calling foul on Google’s aggressive use of patents it purchases from Motorola against arch nemesis Apple in Germany. In a double EU whammy, the tax regulators are clearly coming after Google for their creative financial planning. Just in case you thought Google was in fact a warm, fuzzy Silicone Valley Company it’s not… it’s really based in Bermuda. It’s EU operations are ostensibly transacted through Ireland with a pass through to Bermuda… minimizing EU tax exposure. Unfortunately recently they recruited a bunch of folk for “sales” roles in UK, France, and Germany… and by doing that, they inadvertently qualified themselves to be more aggressively taxed in those countries. Clearly the EU has it in for big G, and is determined to get them any way they can.
The problem Google faces is that they make a great target for anyone with a beef against corporate America, technology in general, and information in particular. They are also incredibly secretive and harder to get a straightforward answer from than Ben Bernanke on Quaaludes. Apple gives us cool toys and Amazon let’s us buy pretty much anything we want to any time anywhere, Google seems to be infiltrating pretty much a very place where we touch information. If they didn’t invent, it they “borrow it” (witness Android and AdWords both critical products they “borrowed” from Apple and Yahoo respectively). Add to that their enthusiasm for minimizing their tax burden which enrages legislators, their willingness to use patents to hobble competitors, and their absolute power over how we navigate the Internet; and it’s not hard to see why they are getting increasingly rough treatment… and it doesn’t seem to bother them very much.