The EU begins officially to investigate Google for alleged anti-competitive practices. According to this aljazeera report,
European Union regulators are to investigate whether Google has abused its dominant position in the online search market in what will be the first major inquiry into the internet giant’s business practices.
The competition watchdogs formally announced their investigation on Tuesday after complaints by rivals that Google gave their services “unfavourable treatment” in unpaid and sponsored search results.
Authorities will investigate whether Google’s services are being given preferential placement in search engine results, some of which may lead to consumer spending.
One of the complainants, British search site Foundem, said in a that its revenue “pales next to the hundreds of billions of dollars of other companies’ revenues that Google controls indirectly through its search results and sponsored links”.
French legal search engine ejustice.fr and Microsoft-owned shopping site Ciao also lodged complaints against Google with the EU commission in February.
I find this development interesting. As I’ve noted in a previous post on Google, Google is a for-profit company, and its mantra as a guardian of public good is a dangerous facade. Specifically, I noted:
Legal scholars working in the area of “network neutrality” understands that companies like Google poses a real threat. About Google Search, one observer recently noted:
Google is performing a precarious balancing act between the enduring public perception of it as comprehensive and impartial and the reality that it is no longer either. In the court of public opinion, Google continues to nurture the appearance of absolute automated objectivity, while, in the court of law, it now vehemently asserts and defends its right to manually and subjectively promote, penalise, or omit whatever it chooses.
Even if Google is “good” now – what is to prevent Google – a for profit, publicly traded company required by law to be beholden to its shareholders – from becoming “bad”? What is to prevent Google from censoring results in a way that is non-neutral but that it privately deems “good”? What is to prevent Google from misusing private information that it has regarding individuals like you and me for private profit?
This EU investigation will be one of many in the coming years, where in due time, I hope the farce of Google being a torch bearer of free speech and the public good would be thoroughly revealed.
Google – in my view – is truly a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. They have a public policy group that is tasked to write white papers that touts public policies – policies that are “for the benefit of Google, its users, and the Internet as a whole” – from the perspective of Google, of course.
Google’s recent “white paper” calling on China’s censorship as an impediment to trade is just another example that shows the extent to which the company will try to gain market access through whatever means available. Unfortunately, the attempt to use WTO technical rule setting mechanism to arbitrate political issues is a tactic that the developed nations have waged against developing nations through the WTO – in the name of “fair trade” – for some time.
This wolf can be vicious indeed…