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Paul Merrell

Trump Declares War On Silicon Valley: DoJ Launches Google Anti-Monopoly Probe | Zero Hedge - 0 views

  • Just before midnight on Friday, at the close of what was a hectic month for markets, WSJ dropped a bombshell of a story: The paper reported that the DoJ has opened an anti-trust investigation of Alphabet Inc., which could "present a major new layer of regulatory scrutiny for the search giant, according to people familiar with the matter." The report was sourced to "people familiar with the matter," but was swiftly corroborated by the New York Times, Bloomberg and others. For months now, the FTC has appeared to be gearing up for a showdown with big tech. The agency - which shares anti-trust authority with the DoJ - has created a new commission that could help undo big-tech tie-ups like Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, and hired lawyers who have advanced new anti-monopoly theories that would help justify the breakup of companies like Amazon. But as it turns out, the Trump administration's first salvo against big tech didn't come from the FTC; instead, this responsibility has been delegated to the DoJ, which has reportedly been tasked with supervising the investigation into Google. That's not super surprising, since the FTC already had its chance to nail Google with an anti-monopoly probe back in 2013. But the agency came up short. From what we can tell, it appears the administration will divvy up responsibility for any future anti-trust investigations between the two agencies, which means the FTC - which is already reportedly preparing to levy a massive fine against Facebook - could end up taking the lead in those cases.
  • Though WSJ didn't specify which aspects of Google's business might come under the microscope, a string of multi-billion-euro fines recently levied by the EU might offer some guidance. The bloc's anti-trust authority, which has been far more eager to take on American tech giants than its American counterpart (for reasons that should be obvious to all), has fined Google over its practice of bundling software with its standard Android license, the way its search engine rankings favor its own product listings, and ways it has harmed competition in the digital advertising market. During the height of the controversy over big tech's abuses of sensitive user data last year, the Verge published a story speculating about how the monopolistic tendencies of each of the dominant Silicon Valley tech giants could be remedied. For Google, the Verge argued, the best remedy would be a ban on acquisitions - a strategy that has been bandied about in Congress.
Paul Merrell

Google Caves to Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service, Agrees to Pay Fine - nsnbc intern... - 0 views

  • Google ultimately caved to Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service, agreeing to pay $7.8 million (438 million rubles) for violating antitrust laws. The corporate Colossus will also pay two other fines totaling an additional $18,000 (1 million rubles) for failing to comply with past orders issued by state regulators. Last year Google caved to similar demands by the European Union.
  • In August 2016 Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service responded to a complaint by Russian search engine operator Yandex and fined the U.S.-based Google 438 million rubles for abusing its dominant market position to force manufacturers to make Google applications the default services on devices using Android. Regulators set the fine at 9 percent of Google’s reported profits on the Russian market in 2014, plus inflation. Similar to the case against the European Union Google challenged the penalty in several appellate courts before finally agreeing this week to meet the government’s demands. The corporation also agreed to stop requiring manufacturers to install Google services as the default applications on Android-powered devices. The agreement is valid for six years and nine months, Russia’s Antimonopoly Service reported. Last year Google, after a protracted battle, caved to similar antitrust regulations by the European Union, but the internet giant has also come under fire elsewhere. In 2015 Australian treasurer Joe Hockey implied Google in his list of corporate tax thieves. In January 2016 British lawmakers decided to fry Google over tax evasion. Google and taxes were compared to the Bermuda Triangle. One year ago the dispute between the European Union’s competition watchdog and Google, culminated in the European Commission formally charging Google with abusing the dominant position of its Android mobile phone operating system, having launched an investigation in April 2015.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

With the Google Antitrust Case, the European Commission Is Is Trying to Gerrymander Yes... - 1 views

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    "Earlier this month Google filed its response to the European Commission's Android antitrust complaint, which alleges that Google thwarts its competitors in search, mobile apps, and mobile devices by limiting their access to Android users through self-serving licensing terms. "
Paul Merrell

News - Antitrust - Competition - European Commission - 0 views

  • Google inquiries Commission accuses Google of systematically favouring own shopping comparison service Infographic: Google might be favouring 'Google Shopping' when displaying general search results
  • Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service; opens separate formal investigation on AndroidWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTAntitrust: Commission opens formal investigation against Google in relation to Android mobile operating systemWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTAntitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping serviceWed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:00 GMTStatement by Commissioner Vestager on antitrust decisions concerning GoogleWed, 15 Apr 2015 11:39:00 GMT
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    The more interesting issue to me is the accusation that Google violates antitrust law by boosting its comparison shopping search results in its search results, unfairly disadvantaging competing shopping services and not delivering best results to users. What's interesting to me is that the Commission is attempting to portray general search as a separate market from comparison shopping search, accusing Google of attempting to leverage its general search monopoly into the separate comoparison shopping search market. At first blush, Iim not convinced that these are or should be regarded as separable markets. But the ramifications are enormous. If that is a separate market, then arguably so is Google's book search, its Google Scholar search, its definition search, its site search, etc. It isn't clear to me how one might draw a defensible line taht does not also sweep in every new search feature  as a separate market.   
Paul Merrell

Excite News - EU files antitrust charges against Google - 0 views

  • BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union's competition chief is filing an antitrust complaint alleging Google has been abusing its dominance in Internet searches and is opening a probe into its Android mobile system.EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Wednesday she is "concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service."Vestager said the separate antitrust probe into Android will investigate whether the Internet giant relies on anti-competitive deals and abuses its dominant position in Europe's mobile market.Vestager said her chief goal was to make sure multinationals "do not artificially deny European consumers as wide a choice as possible or stifle innovation".Google's general counsel Kent Walker wrote late Tuesday that a "statement of objections" to Google's business practices was to be released by Vestager Wednesday.
Paul Merrell

Gmail blows up e-mail marketing by caching all images on Google servers | Ars Technica - 1 views

  • Ever wonder why most e-mail clients hide images by default? The reason for the "display images" button is because images in an e-mail must be loaded from a third-party server. For promotional e-mails and spam, usually this server is operated by the entity that sent the e-mail. So when you load these images, you aren't just receiving an image—you're also sending a ton of data about yourself to the e-mail marketer. Loading images from these promotional e-mails reveals a lot about you. Marketers get a rough idea of your location via your IP address. They can see the HTTP referrer, meaning the URL of the page that requested the image. With the referral data, marketers can see not only what client you are using (desktop app, Web, mobile, etc.) but also what folder you were viewing the e-mail in. For instance, if you had a Gmail folder named "Ars Technica" and loaded e-mail images, the referral URL would be "https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#label/Ars+Technica"—the folder is right there in the URL. The same goes for the inbox, spam, and any other location. It's even possible to uniquely identify each e-mail, so marketers can tell which e-mail address requested the images—they know that you've read the e-mail. And if it was spam, this will often earn you more spam since the spammers can tell you've read their last e-mail.
  • But Google has just announced a move that will shut most of these tactics down: it will cache all images for Gmail users. Embedded images will now be saved by Google, and the e-mail content will be modified to display those images from Google's cache, instead of from a third-party server. E-mail marketers will no longer be able to get any information from images—they will see a single request from Google, which will then be used to send the image out to all Gmail users. Unless you click on a link, marketers will have no idea the e-mail has been seen. While this means improved privacy from e-mail marketers, Google will now be digging deeper than ever into your e-mails and literally modifying the contents. If you were worried about e-mail scanning, this may take things a step further. However, if you don't like the idea of cached images, you can turn it off in the settings. This move will allow Google to automatically display images, killing the "display all images" button in Gmail. Google servers should also be faster than the usual third-party image host. Hosting all images sent to all Gmail users sounds like a huge bandwidth and storage undertaking, but if anyone can do it, it's Google. The new image handling will rollout to desktop users today, and it should hit mobile apps sometime in early 2014. There's also a bonus side effect for Google: e-mail marketing is advertising. Google exists because of advertising dollars, but they don't do e-mail marketing. They've just made a competitive form of advertising much less appealing and informative to advertisers. No doubt Google hopes this move pushes marketers to spend less on e-mail and more on Adsense.
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    There's an antitrust angle to this; it could be viewed by a court as anti-competitive. But given the prevailing winds on digital privacy, my guess would be that Google would slide by.
Matteo Spreafico

Advocacy Group Asks DOJ To Probe Google Search Results - 2 views

  • The nonprofit advocacy group said it sent a letter to Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Division, after news that the European Commission had received three complaints against Google alleging the company manipulated search engine results in an anticompetitive way.
  • "As part of your continued antitrust investigation we call on you to shine a light on Google’s black box, and require it to explain what’s behind search results," Simpson wrote.
  • "If, as it appears, Google is tweaking results to further its narrow agenda, this anticompetitive behavior must be stopped."
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    If the evidence supports the allegations, this is a plausible antitrust theory, a company with a dominant market position leveraging that position into new markets via integration. In essence this is the same theory as that applied against Microsoft's bundling and integration of Windows, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player.  
Paul Merrell

Los Angeles Times - latimes.com - 0 views

  • The Obama administration put large companies on notice that it would be tougher on mergers and attempts to stifle competition, restoring the type of aggressive antitrust enforcement of the 1990s that led to the landmark government case against Microsoft Corp.
  • Among those likely to feel the heat of federal inquiries are technology companies, such as chip maker Intel Corp., Internet giant Google Inc. and longtime tech leader IBM Corp.
Paul Merrell

The antitrust thing that won't blow over | Here we go again | The Economist - 0 views

  • Google, the industry’s newest giant, is also coming under closer scrutiny. On April 29th it emerged that America’s Justice Department is examining whether Google’s settlement with authors and publishers over its book-search service violates antitrust laws; and on May 5th the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a probe to see whether Google’s sharing of two board members with Apple reduces competition between the two firms.
  • Similarly, antitrust lobbying is part of a broader “platform war” for IBM, which hopes thereby to keep Microsoft at bay. Among other things, IBM is a sponsor of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), which has many of Microsoft’s other competitors as its members and is one of the prime movers behind the new browser case. It started in late 2007 with a complaint by Opera, a Norwegian browser-maker and ECIS member. Not to be outdone, Microsoft has entered the antitrust game, too. It recently made an investment in T3, a small vendor of mainframe-like computers, which in January lodged a complaint with the European Commission, alleging that IBM kept it from competing by refusing to license mainframe software to T3’s customers. Microsoft has also lobbied American antitrust regulators to tackle Google, encouraging them to look into an online-advertising deal between the search giant and its rival, Yahoo!, which was eventually abandoned.
  • IBM, for its part, would appear to have little to fear. It is hard to argue, with so many different computer systems around, that mainframes still constitute a separate market—a necessary condition if IBM’s behaviour is to be judged anticompetitive.
Paul Merrell

White House Plans to Reverse Bush Antitrust Rules - washingtonpost.com - 0 views

  • The Obama administration today said it would reverse rules made during the Bush administration that made it difficult to stop anticompetitive business behavior.
  • Over the past couple weeks, antitrust regulators have launched reviews of online giant Google. The DOJ is investigating a settlement Google made with book publishers and authors. And the FTC is reviewing the board ties between Google and Apple, which some antitrust experts argue are competitors.
Paul Merrell

Bloomberg.com: News - 0 views

  • Christine A. Varney, nominated by President Barack Obama to be the U.S.’s next antitrust chief, has described Google Inc. as a monopolist that will dominate online computing services the way Microsoft Corp. ruled software.
  • Varney, 53, lobbied the Clinton administration on behalf of Netscape Communications Corp. to urge antitrust enforcers to sue Microsoft.
  • Still, Google is “quickly gathering market power in what I would call an online computing environment in the clouds,” she said, using a software industry term for software that is based on the Internet rather than in individual personal computers. “When all our enterprises move to computing in the clouds and there is a single firm that is offering a comprehensive solution,” Varney said, “you are going to see the same repeat of Microsoft.”
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  • As in the Microsoft case, “there will be companies that will begin to allege that Google is discriminating” against them by “not allowing their products to interoperate with Google’s products,” Varney said.
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