The DOJ is separately preparing an antitrust lawsuit accusing Google of abusing its control of the online search market, which the department may file as soon as next week. The objectives of such a complaint should include the ways in which Google uses its Android mobile operating system to strengthen its search engine, POLITICO reported it last week.
Spokesmen for Google and the Justice Department declined to comment on Friday.
The anticipated litigation comes as Google and other tech heavyweights Facebook, Amazon and Apple are facing increasing scrutiny by Republicans and Democrats in Washington over issues like their crushing of competitors, processing of users̵
One of the main questions facing prosecutors in both cases: what solutions should they seek to curb Google’s power?
In the advertising investigation, the Department of Justice and state attorneys general asked rivals and other third parties for their views on which businesses Google should sell. They also asked if any existing competitors should be off-limits as potential buyers, people said.
Lawyers have also asked whether any of Google’s properties outside the ad technology market should be targeted for a potential sale, leading some to spot Google’s Chrome browser, they said.
The browser, which Google introduced in 2008 and holds the largest market share in the United States, has been at the center of rivals ‘allegations that the search giant uses its access to users’ web histories to aid its advertising activity.
Those criticisms escalated in January, when Google said would phase out the use of third-party cookies in the Chrome browser within two years to improve consumer privacy. But cookies – small files used by a browser to track visits to websites – are also a key tool for publishers to demonstrate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns to ad buyers.
Google estimates show that deleting these cookies will reduce ad revenue for stores showing online ads by up to 62%.
While other browsers such as Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox already block cookies, Google’s Chrome move is likely to have a broader reach as it is used by nearly 60% of desktop computers and 37% of mobile devices in the United States, according to the analysis. StatCounter company.
An important antitrust report that the House Judicial Commission released this week found that Chrome’s market share allows Google to “effectively set the standards for the industry,” an issue of particular relevance as Chrome phased out cookies.
“Google’s advertising-based business model may cast doubt on whether the standards Google chooses to introduce are ultimately designed primarily to serve the interests of Google,” the House report said. “Market participants fear that while Google is phasing out third-party cookies needed by other digital advertising companies, Google may still rely on data collected across its ecosystem.”
Google said it is working with the advertising industry and others to develop alternatives to cookies. For example, the search giant proposed a new system, nicknamed Tortora, in which advertising auctions would take place inside the browser instead of sending data to external servers. Google claims this would better protect user privacy because a person’s data never leaves their computer or phone. Advertising industry reps, however, are wary of giving so much unsupervised control to browsers and, indeed, to Google.
Aside from asking Google to sell the browser, prosecutors may also consider asking a court to restrict how Google uses Chrome-derived data to help its other products, one of the people said. person involved in the advertising technology market.
Google’s control of the technology behind open web advertising dates back to the search giant’s purchase of DoubleClick in 2007, a company that has helped websites and advertisers run ads online. The Federal Trade Commission reviewed the acquisition at that time and voted, 4-1, to let it go on, despite fears the deal would allow Google to encourage website publishers to use its other advertising services.
At least one of the commissioners who voted in favor of the agreement, William Kovacic, a Republican, he told the New York Times he would have taken the merger challenge if he had known then what he knows now.
Since the purchase of DoubleClick, Google has also collected other advertising technology properties including Admob, a mobile advertising company; auctioneer Invite Media; and AdMeld, a platform for ad buyers. These deals helped Google create a suite of technologies that cover every stage of the process for both buying and selling online display ads.
Requiring Google to close some of these acquisitions or to sell their business on the buyer or seller side of the market are among the possibilities under discussion, people involved in the conversations said.