Happy sweet 16, Google. It's been a contentious year for the search-engine giant. So, when Google blows out the candles, there are a lot of things to wish for.
Google was founded in 1997 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who met as students at Stanford University. The pair created a search engine known as BackRub, which was then turned into Google. The company, whose name is a play on the mathematical term googol, is wroth $390.5 billion and dominates the US market with 100 billion searches monthly. The company has moved beyond the search engine and has become one of the most innovative companies in the world, inventing Android phones, Google Glass, and driverless cars.
But the company has faced problems taking its products overseas. In Europe, Google is facing problems with a philosophy known as the "right to be forgotten" and is now under pressure from European antitrust laws. In China, Google is being hindered by strict censorship laws.
Google's biggest problem in Europe is the legal philosophy known as the "right to be forgotten." In May, the European Court of Justice upheld a ruling that forced Google to allow users to request the removal of unwanted search results. This decision sparked a debate about freedom of information, and Google is now struggling to keep up with the requests. The case began in 2010, when Spanish citizen Mario Costeja demanded that a news article about debts he owed, but since paid off, be removed from Google because it was hurting his reputation. Mr. Costeja won the case. Now, Google has received 120,000 requests to remove material.
Google's executives are taking a two-month tour of Europe to discuss the right to be forgotten. On Tuesday, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt opened the tour in Madrid, saying, "We need to balance the right of information against the individual's right to privacy. So we convened a panel of genuine experts whose criteria and qualifications are amazing to talk to us about this."
In 2010, the European Commission began an investigation into complaints that Google was favoring its own services in search results and reducing the visibility of other search engine sites and services. In February, the EU reached an agreement with Google. Under the terms, Google would reserve space at the top of its search pages for competitors. But in early September, authorities began seeking new concessions from Google. If a settlement isn't reached, Google could face fines of up to $6 billion.
The European Union isn't the only government with which Google is having problems. Since 2010, Google and China have battled over censorship and freedom of information. That year, Google shutdown its Chinese servers to avoid government censorship, directing users toward its Hong Kong site instead. Chinese authorities responded by indirectly blocking the Hong Kong site by making users wait 90 seconds for banned results.
Earlier this year, Google began encrypting searches, which made it difficult for Chinese authorities to track users searching for banned topics. In response, all Google services were blocked on May 29. In recent weeks, following a series of terrorist attacks, China has tightened its Internet censorship, often called the "Great Firewall of China," which is making it difficult for Google customers to use the services. The crackdown has made Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Play almost unusable, according to The New York Times. The ban has hurt Google's business in China. In 2009, Google had one-third of all searches in China, but now Google has only one-fifth of all searches.