It has been a rough year for Google in Europe. The company has received constant flack for its business practices all over the continent. Most recently, the company revealed that it will move the engineers in its Russia-based office in response to the Russian parliament’s ruling earlier this year requiring internet companies to store citizens’ personal data inside the country. The ruling disguised as protection of citizens’ data has been heavily criticized as a way for the Kremlin to monitor citizens more closely through digital means, and punish content publishers or websites by shutting them down should they fail to comply.
Google’s announced Russian staff relocation comes one day after the company revealed that it will be shutting down its Google News service in Spain after that government announced that it will be instituting a “Google tax,” which forces aggregators to pay news publishers for their stories. The head of Google News, Richard Gingras, stated: “As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site), this new approach is simply not sustainable.” The company has enacted similar shutdowns in Germany and Belgium.
These changes to its business practices in Europe follow the notorious “right to be forgotten” ruling, which saw the Court of Justice of the European Union decide that Google must institute a process for removing certain content links in the case of Google Inc. and Google Spain against the Agencia Española de Protección de Datos. That ruling has mandated Google to come up with a method to process link removal requests of which there have been tens of thousands since the ruling.
The company has attempted to drum up positive publicity by conducting multiple forums to discuss the ruling’s impact, and playing up support of big wigs in tech like Jimmy Wales — founder of Wikipedia — who have decried the ruling. But the right to be forgotten remains in place, and the company’s legal issues in Europe continue. The European Parliament voted “yes” to unbundle Google’s search engine business from the rest of its services for separate regulation as part of an antitrust investigation (one of many ongoing investigations) in November.
Theories abound as to why various governments and the E.U. in general are taking such an aggressive stance towards Google — among them backlash against the American technology juggernaut, as well as speculation that other U.S. tech giants are hoping to get more of Europe’s slice of the pie. Whatever the reason, there is no end in sight for the company’s obstacles on the continent.