Back in November, I reported on the European Union’s investigation into Google’s possible antitrust practices (that story is linked below). At the time, the Parliament passed a non-binding vote to break up the tech giant. The key phrase being ‘non-binding’, meaning the Parliament’s vote was more or less a suggestion to the Union’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager. When Ms. Vestager was asked in a recent interview by the Wall Street Journal about her approach to the Google case she stated, “We have sent out a lot of requests for information and we just had a very quick second wave sent out.” In answer to how long she thought it would take to come to a decision about Google, she would only respond, “It’s too early to say.”
While the EU investigation is ongoing, there is growing sentiment in the United States to bring some type of antitrust litigation against Google. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission issued a 160 page report recommending that the commission bring a lawsuit against Google. That report was intended to be private but, as is often the case with government reports, it was ‘inadvertently’ revealed in an open-records request. That specific investigation ended when the FTC commissioners voted unanimously to end it after Google agreed to voluntary changes to its practices. Then-Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a written statement at the time that Google’s voluntary changes, “deliver more relief for American consumers faster than any other option.” Google General CounselKent Walker said in a statement Thursday, “Speculation about potential consumer harm turned out to be entirely wrong. Since the investigation closed two years ago, the ways people access information online have only increased, giving consumers more choice than ever before.”
This past Thursday, March 19th, the Wall Street Journal reported that more action is likely to be taken to show Google as the anti-competitive ‘bully’ that Yelp and others say that they are. Once again, a government document was ‘inadvertently’ leaked. Luther Lowe, vice president of policy for Yelp said, “This document appears to show that the FTC had direct evidence from Google of intentional search bias.” An FTC spokesman said, “Unfortunately, an unredacted version of this material was inadvertently released in response to a FOIA request. We are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again.”
It’s strange how these supposedly private government documents keep finding their way to the press. But, it certainly shows that Google’s competitors and detractors won’t be giving up on getting the US government and other governments to bring actions against Google.
As somewhat of a Google fan-boy, I’m probably not in a position to judge, but I do know that whoever is at the top will continue to take pot shots from everyone else. You can bet that we have not heard the last of this story.
Source: The Wall Street Journal:
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