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November 05, 2012

Latest Google vs Microsoft Battle Sheds Light on How Much Privacy the Companies Receive

By Oliver VanDervoort, Contributing Writer

The fact that two of the major players in the tech industry are doing battle through the courts is hardly a surprise. What is interesting about this particular battle is that Google has made a motion that will keep the proceedings of the court battle largely private. While most companies are looking for these kinds of provisions, Google (News - Alert) wanting to keep details of its Motorola (News - Alert) Mobility software private has raised a few eyebrows because the company has had problems with privacy issues for years.

Some legal experts are concerned in general with just how much privacy these court battles are now getting. The district court judge, who is overseeing this particular case, has already granted several requests from both sides to block quite a few of the pre-trial legal briefs from the public eye. While some believe that as the trial moves along, there will be less withheld, some also think that entire sections of the final ruling could be blacked out or redacted altogether. 

Image via Shutterstock

One prominent law professor, Dennis Crouch says that keeping this kind of information secret basically “infringes on the basic American legal principle that court should be public.” Crouch added that being able to keep these pre-trial motions a secret allows companies to feel as though they can use a costly resource that is largely paid for by the taxpayers as a way to solve their disputes.  Crouch says that seemingly shaming a company by making it clear that information they may not want widely known will go public if the issue goes to trial has led to plenty of settlements that save taxpayers thousands of dollars.

For their part, the tech companies argue that most of what they want kept secret is proprietary technology and letting it get out to the general public would cost the company billions in lost revenue. There are precedents for keeping certain types of information secret, but in general the people who are advocating keeping information private must indicate why going public would be directly harmful.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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