US attorneys general prep antitrust investigation into Google

By

A group called Google You Owe Us wants $1000 each after Google invaded their privacy
Will Google be the first of the tech giants to face an investigation?
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

More than half of U.S. state attorneys general are preparing an antitrust investigation into Google.

This will mark a major ramp-up in the battle between U.S. regulators and Silicon Valley tech giants. The investigation is likely to be announced Monday. Other tech giants also may face antitrust scrutiny.

According to a report from the Washington Post, the investigation will be bipartisan. It will include more than 30 attorneys general.

There are a few concerns about Google, which vary according to location. Two big ones involve the way in which users’ personal information is handled and potential bias in search algorithms. Overall, the investigations reflect growing skepticism about the size and power of today’s tech giants.

“Google’s services help people every day, create more choice for consumers, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country,” a Google spokesperson said. “We continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector.”

What does this mean for Apple?

It’s not yet clear what, if any, ramifications this could have for Apple. Lawmakers in Congress have already spoken with executives from Amazon, Apple and Facebook about their business practices. But no investigations have yet been announced. Nonetheless, the Washington Post writes that:

“The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission’s broad reviews into big tech could evolve into more formal probes of Google and its Silicon Valley peers. Senate lawmakers on Tuesday announced they would hold a hearing focused on tech giants that acquire smaller rivals.”

At this point, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple all have been accused of having monopolies at various times. The most compelling argument against Apple is that it gives its own apps preferential treatment in the App Store. Spotify says it is unfair that Apple takes a cut of its subscription revenues generated by App Store downloads.

To my way of thinking, Apple has the least to worry about when it comes to antitrust. Yes, it’s an enormously powerful company. But, unlike Google, Facebook and Amazon, Apple isn’t the clear market leader in any one category. Android eclipses iOS on overall market share. Apple Music falls behind Spotify in streaming music. And Windows is far ahead of macOS on desktop.