EU to Call for the Dismantling of Google

by Jeff Wiener on November 26, 2014

How do you solve a problem like Google? While Google has pretty much had a free reign of things here in North America, establishing a dominant position in several tech markets, overseas the tech giant has had a harder row to hoe, particularly in Europe and Asia, where the company has faced privacy concerns, antitrust allegations, and legal red tape, all of which have made the company’s goal of controlling the world distinctly more challenging.

To that end, it seems I’m not the only one concerned about Google’s growing dominance over every facet of our lives, as the European Parliament is reportedly readying itself to perhaps call for a break-up of the tech giant itself. According to the Financial Times, the Parliament will push for Google’s search engine service to be “unbundled” from the rest of its products and services as a way to lessen the company’s dominance.

For years Google has been under investigation inEuropefor not only monopolizing the search market, but unfairly treating certain search results, allegedly favouring results for its own services as opposed to its competitors. Now in almost unprecedented fashion in the capitalist Western world, a governmental body is stepping firmly into the arena of business, attempting to put limits on how big a company can get and just what it’s allowed to do.

While representatives of the EU are playing down the notion that Google would be broken-up, European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, the head of digital markets, noted that many companies were suspected of abusing their market power to suppress competition,

“We have some doubts about misuse of gatekeeper positions and also leading positions in the markets,” Ansip said in an interview, stressing the fact he was not referring to particular companies or speaking to Google’s ongoing antitrust probe.

“I’m not ready to say that they will have to be broken up, talking about vertically integrated structures,” he said. “We have to investigate very carefully where those problems are … and then find possible solutions,” noting that decisions will be subject to public debate.

The concern is, of course, that established companies like Google effectively control the Internet, and such dominance makes it difficult for competing companies to gain a foothold. “For many small and medium-sized companies, for family businesses, because of those vertically integrated structures it’s impossible to gain visibility,” Ansip explained. “And if you are not able to gain visibility it means you are not able to sell.”

With a vote on this matter set for Thursday it will be interesting to see how the EU responds to the growing dominance of tech companies like Google. For some here at home, where such governmental involvement is seen as the root of all evil, even the threat of break-up is tough to swallow. Simply put, as antitrust attorney and former policy director at the US Federal Trade Commission David Balto notes, “It’s unprecedented,” and should it comes to pass it’ll be interesting to see the effect it has on the tech industry as a whole.

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