Google faces EU investigation over data practices

In the last week, the European commission has launched a new investigation into Google’s data collection practices. The competition commission has also sent out questionnaires to firms working with Google, asking them about all the data sharing agreements they have made.

According to a report in Reuters, this latest investigation and questionnaires show that the EU’s primary focus has moved towards “data related to local search services, online advertising, online ad targeting services, login services, web browsers and others”.

This follows numerous issues with the internet giant, including a fine issued by the commission in March for €1.49bn, which was given to Google for policies that blocked rival advertisers on its service between 2006 and 2016. It was accused of abusing its market dominance by blocking these ads.

This latest investigation suggests that it may be some time before Google escapes the EU’s scrutiny. The firm has already received over €8bn in fines. Other cases included a 2017 investigation into Google Shopping, and an anticompetitive practices case in 2018.

In a statement, the regulator told Reuters: “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.”

In some of the later violations, the commission increased its emphasis on contract that Google signed with third parties. This practice isn’t usually used in antitrust enforcement cases, but, according to the commission, it’s crucial in determining how Google maintains its position.

Tech analyst Ben Thompson noted that this is increasingly common, saying in a post, “This is an area ripe for enhanced antitrust enforcement. These large tech companies have enough advantages, most of them earned through delivering what customers want, and abetted by the fundamental nature of zero marginal costs. Seeking to augment those advantages through contracts that suppliers can’t say ‘no’ to should be viewed with extreme skepticism.”

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