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Google May Have To Reveal Your Data

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A competitor’s advertising data held by Google may be just a legal complaint and a subpoena away from being available to anyone who wants it.

The scuffle between Rhino Sports and Sport Court over the use of advertising to promote recreational flooring products could spill out over advertisers everywhere.

Certain AdWords advertisers have received letters from Google, alerting them of the subpoena issued by Sport Court. Law professor Eric Goldman said Sport Court wants Google to give up all kinds of ad-related data as it pertains to the company’s case.

“This data sounds like it would have significant competitive value. At minimum, I suspect every trademark owner and SEO would LOVE to have this data,” said Goldman. He also obtained a copy of a letter sent by Google to advertisers affected by the subpoena.

The letter advised recipients that unless they move to quash or otherwise object to the subpoena, Google will have to hand over the requested information by July 19th.

DidIt.com’s Kevin Lee said in a ClickZ report that Google’s letter may be a tactical move to block Sport Court’s request. If one or more advertisers object, “Google can take the higher ground” and fight the subpoena from a stronger position, Lee believes.

In May 2007, Goldman discussed the Rhino Sports case. He said the issue of broad matching of keywords hadn’t been understood well by the courts, until the lawsuit against Rhino Sports by Sport Court.

However, the court may have overlooked an easy way to resolve the difference between the two parties at that time:

This court’s reasoning is solid, but I’m interested by the fact that the court didn’t discuss Rhino Sports’ ability to negative keyword match the phrase “sport court.” This would be easy for Rhino Sports to do and it would appear to solve Sport Court’s problem.

Rhino Sports has purchased keywords like ‘court’ and ‘basketball court’, and their ad copy did not contain the term ‘sport court’. That would have violated both the existing injunction against Rhino Sports (the case has been around since 2002) and Google’s terms of service for AdWords.

Google May Have To Reveal Your Data
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