Googling The Future

Anyone concerned about the digital future should welcome the recent record-setting fine of Google by EU antitrust officials.

Google had been accused of using its search engine, which reportedly has 90 percent of the market, to prioritize its own online shopping service. As a result, the use of the Google service increased dramatically — 45 percent in the UK, for example — while the use of its competitors’ services decreased — 85 percent in the UK, and these changes, according to the European Commission, cannot be explained by other factors.

EU officials acknowledged that Google had a plan for making its service better than its competitors’ services but argued that its efforts were excessive and, as a result, illegal. Google, in response, indicated that it disagreed and that it connects users and advertisers in ways that benefit both.

Some in the United States, according to The New York Times, insist that this fine represents an unfair focus on American companies. The issue, however, isn’t whether the EU is targeting American companies — Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others don’t exclusively or even primarily in the the United States — but whether Google will be accountable to anything other than itself.

Google is reviewing the fine — it has 90 days to respond — and is considering an appeal. Google is also facing antitrust charges about its mobile operating system Android as a result of accusations that it unfairly requires cell phone companies to pre-install its software and offers manufacturers inappropriate incentives to prefer its services.

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