In November, Google agreed to pay a $17 million settlement to 37 U.S. states to resolve allegations that the company violated consumer privacy by using tracking cookies to capture the searching habits of Apple Safari Web browser users from 2011 to 2012.
Another user privacy case is still pending against Google involving the then-undisclosed collection of unsecured wireless personal user data during Street View imaging projects around the nation. In September, Google lost its latest court appeal in the matter.
In a similar case in Europe in April, Google was hit with an $189,167 fine in Germany for Street View data collection that occurred there without disclosure to affected residents as Street View vehicles combed German streets collecting information for its maps from 2007 to 2010. The Street View program came under scrutiny both in the United States and in Europe after it was learned that Google was gathering the information street by street.
Google continues to be under investigation in Europe regarding its search engine, which holds more than 60 percent of the search market, with Microsoft's Bing being a distant second. Competitors claim that Google tunes its search algorithms to favor its own products and results over those of others, giving it an unfair advantage in search and Web advertising.
Those challenges, however, have apparently not dulled Google's overall luster in the marketplace.
Google is a market giant with an estimated $50 billion in cash that it can invest in new ideas, new businesses and technologies, along with the leadership and corporate philosophy that makes almost anything possible.
It's a combination producing staggering success, all ultimately due to the simple concept of Google Ad Words, said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Research.
"Basically Google figured out how to monetize the Web while most others assumed that if you'd do something that folks liked that the money would eventually magically show up," Enderle said. "It wasn't about search, which is where Microsoft and Yahoo thought the market battle would play out. It was about turning the Web into a business and figuring out how to make it pay."
Ironically, Google appeared in the marketplace just two years before the dot-com crash in 2000, Enderle said, yet it was able to survive and ultimately become a global success story.
"This was likely helped because they came to market during the rise and painful fall of the dot-coms and that drove home the critical need for a revenue plan," he said. "They actually over-executed and now own the majority of ad revenue in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world."
Yet there is still one symbol of the company's success that people hardly even seem to notice anymore—Google as a business even inspired a new phrase in our lexicon—"Go Google it."
The phrase "Google it" has been heard over and over again in movies, in private and public conversations and it's been repeated often in posts and stories on the Internet.
That's certainly a symbolic cultural milestone for Google at 15. If you don't believe it, well, you can certainly Google it.
That in itself is no small achievement for a business that began with a dream and a $10,000 investment inside a small Menlo Park garage.