Wednesday, November 25, 2020

US justice against Google, a limited but crucial investigation

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One of the most awaited procedures in the United States is finally starting: after more than a year of investigations, the American justice department opened, Tuesday, October 20, an investigation against Google for abuse of a dominant position. The US government, joined by eleven states in the country, accuses the company of having “Illegally maintained a monopoly in online research and online advertising”, thanks to paid agreements with smartphone manufacturers, including Apple.

The procedure does not cover all of Google’s activities, but a very specific point. The justice department has indeed chosen to reduce the specter of this first investigation, in order to move forward more quickly. And to be able to boast of having officially launched, before the US presidential election of November 3, one of the antitrust proceedings under study for a year against the giants of “tech” Americans: Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple.

Read also An unprecedented hearing for the CEOs of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple

The impact of the investigation against Google is however considerable in the United States: it is a business “Monumental”, estimated in its press release the justice department. And the biggest in the field of “tech” since the famous lawsuit against Microsoft in 1998. A victory for the prosecution could change the American antitrust case law, which has been more oriented towards laissez-faire for forty years. The case symbolizes the change in the political climate around the digital giants. The image of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple has deteriorated sharply since the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and criticism of their gigantic economic power.

Private “market access” rivals

Concretely, Google, which has nearly 90% of the market share in search in the United States, is accused of having imposed its engine by having it preinstalled on smartphones as part of the licenses granted to manufacturers to use its mobile environment. Android. The agreements made with Apple are also in the crosshairs, in particular because of the placement of Google as the default search engine in the browser of the Apple firm, Safari. Google pays Apple billions of dollars each year – 9 billion, or about 7.6 billion euros, according to a Goldman Sachs bank estimate in 2018 – to remain the preinstalled service.

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