Depending on how you look at it, Google’s either in a whole lot of trouble, or it’s gotten a lucky break. The consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog went after the search giant again today, calling for the Department of Justice to take action, but arguably went too far by suggesting that the company be broken up.
At the beginning of a letter to several DOJ officials, Consumer Watchdog’s John M. Simpson did a fair job of highlighting precedents for federal interference. He wrote, "Your department has opposed the proposed Google Books settlement and the FTC is closely examining Google’s planned $750 million acquisition of the mobile advertising company AdMob."
After discussing Google’s dominance in the search and advertising markets, Simpson pushed for some unusually harsh penalties, though. One idea was to have Google pay consumers significant amounts of money in return for monetizing their information. Another was regulating Google as a public utility.
Finally, there’s the biggie: "break Google into different companies devoted to different lines of business."
If anyone important at the DOJ agrees with these recommendations, Google will obviously face a very tough fight. It just seems more likely that Simpson undermined his arguments (and those of other privacy groups) by requesting almost unheard-of consequences.