Google draws fresh EU scrutiny over data-gathering practices

29 November 2019 8:24am

27 November 2019, by Lewis Crofts and Nicholas Hirst

Google’s data collection has attracted the scrutiny of EU antitrust regulators, MLex understands, opening a new front against the search-engine company.

Detailed questionnaires issued to websites and online businesses in the last few days are seeking to understand how the tech giant gathers and monetizes data.

The request for information indicates Google is still in the EU’s antitrust cross-hairs despite a decade of scrutiny, which has so far concentrated on the mechanics of search results, advertising contracts and the rollout of Android.

Investigators are delving into the ways Google collects and processes data, trying to understand the kind of information gathered and its value in, for example, improving search services or targeting advertising.

They are also exploring commercial relationships between Google and other internet players, as well as any restrictions in those contracts. Recipients are prompted for examples of Google refusing requests from other organizations to access and use its data, it is understood.

The questions also cover Google services such as web analytics and the company’s online login, asking whether partners have to share data with the search-engine.

Spokespeople for Google and the European Commission didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The EU’s preliminary information-gathering exercise appears to signal a different examination of the company’s business, focusing this time on data-related conduct.

In 2017, the commission fined the search engine 2.42 billion euros ($2.66 billion) for squeezing out rival price-comparison services. And in 2018, it imposed a sanction of 4.34 billion euros for misusing the popular Android mobile operating system.

Earlier this year, it levied a third fine of 1.49 billion euros for abusive contract terms linked to the advertising service AdSense.

Google has challenged all three decisions at the EU courts in Luxembourg.

While those cases looked at Google's power over internet search and handsets, they didn't deal directly with the company's use and monetization of data.