By Caroline Mathews, National News Writer
European Antitrust Regulators slapped Google with a $2.7 billion fine for “denying other companies the chance to compete on the merits and innovate” by unjustly favoring some of their own services over those of competitors. The crux of the illegality, however, is the search-giant’s essential obstruction of genuine choice of services and innovation, according to Margrethe Vestager, the European bloc’s top antitrust official.
The recent announcement of Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, confirms Google’s regulatory battles are far from over; Hawley has opened an investigation into whether the company’s business practices infringe upon Missouri’s consumer protection and antitrust laws. The Attorney General has admitted the investigation is in part a follow-up to the European fine, as there are concerns of a “similar pattern of behavior in the United States.” On Monday, November 13, the state issued a subpoena to Google to obtain information regarding the collection and use of consumers’ private information, other content provider information, as well as any form of potential bias within the search engine results. Hawley, a Republican running for Senate in 2018, argues that it is of utmost importance for corporate giants to provide a level of transparency when storing and using consumers’ personal information—in which there is “no meaningful option” to opt out of Google’s data collection.
The investigation has come out amid the increasing critical opinion of technological firms’ exponential increase of power with little regulatory oversight. Hawley has also publicly denounced the Federal Trade Commission for giving Google a “free pass,” following the termination of a nearly two-year antitrust investigation into Google in 2012. During the investigation, the Federal Trade Comission voted unanimously to close the investigation without pressing forward official charges, with the requirement that Google comply to minor changes regarding corporate business practices for five years (a period that is about to expire). A staff report of the investigation was published in the Wall Street Journal, which concluded that Google had in fact illegally drawn upon other sites’ content. The company had also harmed competitors due to anticompetitive search result practices; however, the recommendation to file a lawsuit was scrapped due to the difficulty of prosecution.
Despite the recent allegations, Google has continued to dispute the anticompetitive business practices, stating the company genuinely believes the internet remains a dynamic and competitive marketplace. Regarding user privacy concerns, the company says there are “strong privacy protections in place” as well as several webpages available for users to see the data Google has, and allows users to delete data and opt-out of future data collection.
Google, however, has declined to comment on their expected response to the subpoena, as the document is yet to be received.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 21st print edition.
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