Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, so the EU is investigating Google to get some more money in its hat

Because eight billion euros just ain’t enough

The European Commission has confirmed it is carrying out yet another investigation into whether Google has abused its market position, this time digging into the search giant’s data collection around local search and ads.

“The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s practices relating to Google’s collection and use of data. The preliminary investigation is ongoing,” the European Competition Commission said in an email to Reuters.

Those questionnaires have gone out to third-parties that Google contracts with and have asked about data-sharing agreements they have, specifically in the areas of local search services, online advertising and web browsers.

The EU forms ask for the kind of data that Google has asked for and the data's value, as well as whether the companies are constrained by any contractual clauses on what they can do with the data.

The concern is that Google is doing the same that it has already been found guilty of – and fined billions of euros by the EU – in the smartphone, comparison shopping and online advertising markets: using its market dominance to force companies to operate on its terms, which invariably shields it from competition.

In 2017, Google was fined €2.4bn ($2.7bn) for promoting its own shopping search service over those of smaller rivals. In 2018, it was fined again – €4.3bn ($4.8bn) – for forcing smartphone makers to preinstall and default to its search and browser as a condition of using its open Android operating system. And earlier this year, it was fined a third time – this time €1.5bn ($1.7bn) – for using its ad platform dominance to keep out rivals and force other websites to place Google ads in the most prominent places.

Same response every time

Google's response in every case has been to fight on every front. It has appealed all the fines, resisted making any changes, and, rivals say, distorted whatever changes it has made in order to maintain its control.

In the Google Shopping case, the tech giant only submitted a compliance plan three hours before its 60-day deadline. It appealed the decision. And it made changes that rivals said were effectively worthless, prompting them, last year, to ask the European Commission to find the company in non-compliance of the EU’s decision.

Just last week, those same companies reiterated the same concerns – that Google was “artfully avoiding compliance with the law” – in a letter that 41 comparison shopping sites signed. Its new auction mechanism was designed to benefit Google, they complained and asked the EU to take another look at the system.

The Chocolate Factory appealed the Android fine and responded to the €4.3bn fine and judgment by forcing manufacturers to pay Google a fee to include its suite of apps, which include Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Play. It wouldn’t charge for Search or Chrome, though, Google generously offered.

And again

In addition to the shopping service, smartphone market, ad platform market and now local search market, Google was also put under investigation for the exact same behavior in the job advertising market in August this year.

Android logo

Google caught a Russian state hacker crew uploading badness to the Play Store


And on Monday, Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority said it was digging into Google's acquisition of UK data science startup Looker to see if it would result in the "substantial lessening of competition," in the market.

In short, despite having been fined more than €8bn, Google appears to use every opportunity to cement its dominance in every market it exists in, using its vast resources to drag out, delay, and obfuscate while knowing that it can easily pay whatever fines are thrown at it.

Its market dominance brings the company $40.6bn in earnings before tax and $30.8bn after tax every year. The longer it maintains that dominance, the more money it makes. And the more money it makes, the more it can afford to pay regulator fines and hire lawyers to drag out every decision against it while making cosmetic changes that continue to maintain its position.

"We use data to make our services more useful and to show relevant advertising, and we give people the controls to manage, delete or transfer their data," Google said in response to this latest probe. "We will continue to engage with the Commission and others on this important discussion for our industry."

Google's share price fell by a little over 1 per cent on the news. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021