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posted by janrinok on Sunday March 13 2022, @04:43AM   Printer-friendly

EU and UK open antitrust probe into Google and Meta over online ads:

Regulators in Europe and the UK have opened an antitrust probe into a deal between Google and Meta on online advertising, in the latest effort to tackle the market power of the world's biggest technology companies.

The move follows US antitrust investigators who are also probing an agreement informally known as "Jedi Blue." The search engine giant and Facebook's parent company have been accused of working together to carve up advertising profits, acting together to buttress their businesses.

The EU and UK probes represent the latest assault on Big Tech from global regulators that are also preparing to unleash new rules designed to challenge the primacy of groups such as Google, Meta, and Amazon. In response, US tech groups have launched lobbying efforts in Washington and Brussels in an effort to protect their interests.

[...] Companies found in breach of EU law stand to lose up to 10 percent of global revenues, but the legal processes could take years.

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Related Stories

Amazon Lied About Using Seller Data, Lawmakers Say, Urging DOJ Investigation 14 comments

Amazon lied about using seller data, lawmakers say, urging DOJ investigation:

Amazon lied to Congress about its use of third-party seller data, the House Judiciary Committee said today. In a letter to the Department of Justice, the committee chairs asked prosecutors to investigate the company for criminal obstruction of Congress.

"Amazon lied through a senior executive's sworn testimony that Amazon did not use any of the troves of data it had collected on its third-party sellers to compete with them," the letter says (emphasis in the original).

[...] "Amazon has declined multiple opportunities to demonstrate with credible evidence that it made accurate and complete representations," the letter says. "Amazon's failure to correct or corroborate those representations suggests that Amazon and its executives have acted intentionally to improperly influence, obstruct, or impede the Committee's investigation and inquiries."

Congress held a series of hearings as part of a 16-month antitrust investigation that scrutinized the practices of Amazon, Google parent company Alphabet, Apple, and Facebook, now known as Meta. During those hearings, lawmakers questioned Amazon executives about whether third-party seller data was used to develop private-label products or to privilege its own products in search results.

"We do not use any seller data to compete with [third parties]," Nate Sutton, associate general counsel for competition, told Congress in sworn testimony in July 2019. "We do not use any of that specific seller data in creating our own private brand products."

Yet as today's letter points out, subsequent investigations by The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and The Markup revealed that not only did Amazon employees working on private-label items have access to third-party data, but they routinely used it, even discussing it openly in meetings. "Amazon employees regularly violated the policy—and senior officials knew it."

Original Submission

The Open Secret of Google Search 41 comments

Over at The Atlantic, Charlie Warzel wonders if Google Search is becoming a victim of its own success:

In February, an engineer named Dmitri Brereton wrote a blog post about Google's search-engine decay, rounding up leading theories for why the product's "results have gone to shit." The post quickly shot to the top of tech forums such as Hacker News and was widely shared on Twitter and even prompted a PR response from Google's Search liaison, Danny Sullivan, refuting one of Brereton's claims. "You said in the post that quotes don't give exact matches. They really do. Honest," Sullivan wrote in a series of tweets.

Brereton's most intriguing argument for the demise of Google Search was that savvy users of the platform no longer type instinctive keywords into the search bar and hit "Enter." The best Googlers—the ones looking for actionable or niche information, product reviews, and interesting discussions—know a cheat code to bypass the sea of corporate search results clogging the top third of the screen. "Most of the web has become too inauthentic to trust," Brereton argued, therefore "we resort to using Google, and appending the word 'reddit' to the end of our queries." Brereton cited Google Trends data that show that people are searching the word reddit on Google more than ever before.

[...] Google has built wildly successful mobile operating systems, mapped the world, changed how we email and store photos, and tried, with varying success, to build cars that drive themselves. [...] Most of the tech company's products—Maps, Gmail—are Trojan horses for a gargantuan personalized-advertising business, and Search is the one that started it all. It is the modern template for what the technology critic Shoshana Zuboff termed "surveillance capitalism."

The article goes on at length about ruthless commercialism via ever-intrusive ads, constant tweaks to the search algorithm, and how different generations use the ubiquitous search engine.

Google's Ad Business Could Finally Crack Open
Google Allegedly Hid Documents From Search Monopoly Lawsuit, DOJ Claims
EU and UK Open Antitrust Probe Into Google and Meta Over Online Ads

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Sunday March 13 2022, @05:23AM (6 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 13 2022, @05:23AM (#1228854) Journal

    It's awfully late in the game, but the world's governments need to tell Big Tech, "You can't do that, and if you continue to do it, we'll take all your toys away from you."

    Do political debates really matter? Ask Joe!
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by janrinok on Sunday March 13 2022, @06:29AM (4 children)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 13 2022, @06:29AM (#1228865) Journal

      Except the EU has been doing this for several years now - this isn't the first anti-trust probe to be carried out and many companies have already been fined millions of € and $.

      The GDPR was introduced in 2016 and the EU explained that for a few years they would not be issuing fines but educating companies by explaining how the law affected them. That period passed around 2019 and fines have been issued to offenders, and steadily increasing for repeat offenders, ever since that time.

      Action could not have been taken before 2016 as there was no legislation covering it.

      I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Runaway1956 on Sunday March 13 2022, @06:45AM (3 children)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 13 2022, @06:45AM (#1228867) Journal

        Oh, I hadn't realized that the EU "we'll take all your toys away from you." It was my impression that the EU had only imposed a few fines, infinitesimal when measured against the profits that Big Tech pulls in.

        I am suggesting that the penalties get a whole lot bigger, and a whole lot faster. Investors need to be hurt, so that they are motivated to put their dogs on a short leash.

        Years ago, when speeding tickets typically carried a $50 fine, I paid those fines, and went on my way, not caring very much. When the fines started going up, I took notice. $250 and higher fines are simply unaffordable. $1000 fines are crushing. You get the idea here - don't gradually raise fines against Google. Multiply the fines by an order of magnitude, and if that doesn't have good results, go to another order of magnitude.

        Do political debates really matter? Ask Joe!
        • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Sunday March 13 2022, @02:42PM (2 children)

          by mhajicek (51) on Sunday March 13 2022, @02:42PM (#1228895)

          If someone is wealthy enough, they'll simply pay fines that would destroy others. Fines should never be used as legal punishment; those responsible need to be hit with actual penalties, ranging from a few hours of community service up to and including life in prison, depending on the scale of harm they've caused.

          The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
          • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday March 13 2022, @04:03PM (1 child)

            by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 13 2022, @04:03PM (#1228910) Journal

            That is part and parcel to my complaint/suggestion. But, if fines increase by orders of magnitude, you quickly arrive at a point where even the wealthiest people in the world can't afford to pay any longer. I don't see fines exactly as a "legal punishment". Businesses are licensed by the government, and their charters proclaim that they provide some service to the community, right? Failure to provide those services, and/or corrupting those services to the detriment of society at large should be met with forfeiture of assets. They broke the social contract, they pay, just as with any other breach of contract.

            Of course, the fines don't preclude criminal prosecution of the individuals responsible. Government(s) could confiscate much or all of Facebook's assets, then take Zuck and his officers to criminal court for 'crimes against humanity'.

            And, no, that isn't really a long stretch. What I deem to be criminal conduct is being committed against all of humanity. Zuck regards us and our data as his property.

            Do political debates really matter? Ask Joe!
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 13 2022, @06:11PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 13 2022, @06:11PM (#1228943)

              Extremist views on privacy don't translate into the real world where kids hand their data to China as soon as they get their first smartphone, and everyone's personal data has been leaked 11 times over from database hacks. Nobody cares about privacy for more than 5 minutes. Oh, and the corporations write the laws.

              Luckily for humanity, Facebook is killing itself by looking goofy as hell.


    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 13 2022, @03:33PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 13 2022, @03:33PM (#1228903)

      >> It's awfully late in the game, but the world's governments need to tell Big Tech, "You can't do that, and if you continue to do it, we'll take all your toys away from you."

      Yeah, that approach worked really well for controlling Putin... do they really want to piss off Sergei too?