- Annika Santhanam
From Accuser to the Accused - Should Google Be Subject to Government Regulation?
Technology is an integral part of our lives, especially now that many of us are learning and working from home on our computers. However, many of the companies responsible for the creation of the most popular devices and software used today are now deemed dangerous behemoths of the tech industry. Most recently, on October 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Google for its tactics to smother competition. Over the years, Google has gained control over about 90% of web searches. The company has faced heavy criticism for abusing its dominance in these searches, as it is also the owner of Chrome, the world’s leading web browser; Android, the largest smartphone operating system; Youtube, the world’s top video website; and Google Maps, the most popular online maps system. Through all of these resources that Google owns, the company is not only maintaining a monopoly on common technological services, but it is also collecting personal data from billions of users and utilizing the data for its own advertising machine. As Google becomes the face of the Big Tech issue in the country, the question arises of whether or not the government should be regulating Google and its power. In the face of reason, the answer is quite simple - Google’s growing dominance should be curbed by government regulation to continue the fostering of competition and protect user data.
Google has taken steps to stifle competition, including paying billions of dollars to phone manufacturers to secure its place as the default search engine on browsers. If Google remains unregulated, it could end up restricting competition from other businesses, thus preventing innovation from other tech companies and hindering economic growth. Additionally, the corporation has been accused of entering agreements with third parties, who are subsequently prohibited from using services from or advertising for Google’s competitors. In an attempt to divert the blame elsewhere, Google continues to maintain that it is continuing to provide diverse products and services that consumers choose to use. In reality, Google’s monopoly on the tech industry narrows the range of products and services available to consumers. In response to Google’s growing power, Europe has attempted to create competing companies to little avail, proving that a structural change within Google is necessary to ensure the stability of antitrust measures. Ironically, this situation has already occurred in reverse - in 1998, Google accused Microsoft of snuffing out competition from other web browsers. After twenty-two years, Google has switched from the accuser to the accused.
Google’s monopoly of power gives it not only incredible control over the economy, but also a significant amount of control over the data of billions of consumers, compromising their safety. In each of the services and products that Google owns, consumers must accept their privacy policies and use of personal data, releasing their search history, preferences, and other forms of data to be used by Google in different forms of advertising. Google’s monopolistic behaviors have doled out this information to businesses like ad vendors DoubleClick, AdMob, Invite Media, Admeld, Applied Semantics, and Sprinks, which have all come under GOogle’s umbrella. All of Google’s holdings simply act as stimulants to spread user data to advertising machines for the corporation’s own profit. Moreover, with its acquisition of Waze for $1.1 billion dollars in 2013, the company acquired a new treasure chest of location data from users, which is combined with user data from Google Maps to personalize advertisements and search results. But Google’s incursions into our lives do not end there. In 2014, Google’s purchase of Nest enabled it to secure its place in the growing field of smart speakers. As smart speakers become more prevalent, so do the search engines that these speakers route through in order to access information. The acquisition of Nest allows the corporation to grab user data from homes through the speakers and feed it through their search engine. Google has become a behemoth in our computers, our phones, and now, even our homes.
While there is an abundance of reasons that prove the necessity of government regulation of Google, the case ultimately relies on substantial proof that illegal practices were used by Google to gain their monopoly, with Google being accused of already violating legislation including Georgia common law, the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. As the case and investigation continues, the outcome will rely on the government and possible measures that could be taken to remedy Google and its dominance over the technology market. Under scrutiny, will Google maintain its innocence and stability, or will it be exposed and condemned as a monopolistic behemoth of the economy? Only time will tell.