Google’s activities under scrutiny by US, Europe regulators

Google, the tech giant known universally for its search engine, also has fingers in a number of other pies, like online advertising, email messaging and video.

That gives U.S. antitrust enforcers, who have reportedly evinced a new interest in persuing cometition charges against Google, lots to look at.

Governments around the world are becoming increasingly unnerved by the power amassed by major technology companies — with the dominance of Google in search, Facebook in social networking and Amazon in e-commerce raising the sharpest concerns.

In the most dramatic scenario, a case might be made for breaking the companies into smaller pieces.

The U.S. Justice Department is readying an investigation of Google’s business practices in search and other areas, and whether they violate antitrust law, according to news reports.

Neither the company nor the Justice Department will confirm or deny that a probe has been launched.

The Federal Trade Commission, which shares competition oversight with Justice, made an antitrust investigation of Google but closed it in 2013 without taking action.

The company made changes voluntarily after the FTC probe, including letting advertisers use information from their Google ad campaigns to create campaigns with rivals.

But an FTC staff report released years later showed that the agency staff had urged the presidentially-appointed commissioners to bring a lawsuit against Google. That never happened.

It isn’t clear what specific areas of Google’s business the Justice Department might be probing.

But here are some possible areas U.S. antitrust cops might poke into.

Google commands the lead in digital ad revenue by a wide margin, controlling 31.1% of global digital ad dollars, according to eMarketer’s 2019 estimates. Facebook is a distant second with 20.2%.

European antitrust regulators slapped Google in March with a $1.7 billion fine for freezing out rivals in the online advertising business — the regulators’ third big fine against the company in less than two years.

Still, the latest penalty isn’t likely to have much effect on Google’s business.

It applies to a narrow portion of Google’s ad business in which Google sells ads next to Google search results on third-party websites.

It involves practices the company says it already ended, and the amount is just a fraction of the $31 billion in profit that its parent, conglomerate Alphabet Inc., made last year.

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