The Google antitrust investigations in the EU reflect fevered interest in Europe in the notion of data, and access to and management of data, as an unlawful abuse of dominance.
There are two ongoing Google investigations: the first, launched by the European Commission in November 2010, concerns search results ranking and advertising arrangements. Google offered remedies to address these concerns including the following:
• the ranking of rival services in search results
• the copying of content from other sites
• exclusive advertising arrangements, and
• restrictions on porting advertising campaigns to other platforms.
Having been close to settlement on a number of occasions, it now looks like the newly appointed EU Commission has backed away from settling on the basis that the package of remedies is inadequate.
The second investigation was prompted by a complaint from Fairsearch, an organisation whose 17 members include Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle. The complaint alleges that Google has abused Android's dominant position in smartphone operating systems, by giving away the Android mobile operating system to device manufacturers (a 'Trojan Horse') on condition that its applications such as Google Maps and YouTube are prominently displayed on devices. Android mobile software is installed on about 70% of new smartphones, making it the dominant mobile software platform around the world.
In addition, the European Parliament last week approved a motion calling for tougher regulation of internet search, including suggesting the potential break up of Google by unbundling search engine from other commercial services. The Parliament does not have the power to implement any such proposal, but the motion reflects an increasingly combative mood in the EU towards some of the biggest US tech companies.
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