When it comes to online giant Google, it seems like the numbers are always huge – number of users, hits per day, or revenue generated. Now, the Associated Press has reported they are going to pay a jumbo-sized fine as well.
The fine is for money Google made in their role as broker between illegal online pharmacies and their customers. This isn’t an accusation or admission that Google did anything wrong, just a fine for participating.
The real crime occurs when Canadian or other pharmacies market to US customers inappropriately. Some pharmacies go so far as delivering the goodies without checking prescriptions or offer their own doctor’s services to give the transaction the veneer of propriety. But the business model is clear – knowingly selling drugs over the Internet.
Google’s role looks to be the same one they fulfill for any advertiser – get the word out there and bring customers by way of clicks. The company gets most of it’s revenue this way. But when the advertiser turns out to be engaged in criminal activity, the law can step in and make charges, or, as in this case, levy a fine.
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Interestingly, about half the money from the fine will go to law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of the pharmacies doing business this way. Five different states will get money, and so will some federal agencies, including the IRS, US Postal Service, Customs, and the Secret Service.
According to the report, the windfall can’t be used to replace money already budgeted (on the state level), but has to be used to add either services or equipment. State law enforcement will have to submit spending plans to get their share of the windfall. This mirrors the way other seized assets are distributed.