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Editorial: US Justice Dept.’s suit against Google a chance to stop tech oligopoly

  • October 22, 2020
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google in a U.S. district court. The government accuses the search engine giant of eliminating other companies’ chances of making inroads into the internet service market by using its overwhelming power.


Google has about a 90% share of the worldwide online search engine market. According to the complaint and other sources, the tech giant has forbidden smartphone producers to have other web search services installed as default settings in their products to maintain its market superiority. Google has also been paying Apple Inc. several billion dollars every year to have its search engine installed in iPhones as a standard measure.


iPhones and devices that use Google’s operating software occupy the majority of the smartphone market. By taking in search engine users on these smartphones, Google is able to collect a massive amount of personal information on individuals.


The firm has expanded its profits from online ads using people’s data.


The U.S. Justice Department deemed that Google’s business practice has prevented newcomers from venturing into the market and hindered fair competition. The Justice Department also argues that as a result of Google’s continued monopoly, the quality of online search services, including rules on the protection of privacy, has not been improved and the interest of consumers has been compromised.


This is the first major antitrust lawsuit against an information technology giant in about 20 years since Microsoft was sued. The issue at stake at the time was Microsoft’s attempt to install internet browsing software in its computer operating software that was widely shared to eliminate competition. Following the lawsuit, the global tech giant came under stricter public scrutiny, which has led to the rise of emerging tech firms including Google.


Up until now, the four tech giants known as “GAFA” — Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — have avoided strict regulations by the U.S. government. This was because emphasis has been placed on the significance of their roles in contributing to America’s economic growth and their international competitiveness.


As oligopoly has further increased, however, it has come to a point where their clients are forced into disadvantageous contracts and authorities cannot ignore their adverse effects of preventing new tech firms entering into the market.


The U.S. government has launched the legal action due to these circumstances, but the lawsuit alone cannot protect the interest of users. The root cause of GAFA-bashing lies in their practice of neglecting the protection of private information.


While Japan and European countries have stepped up regulations for these tech giants over information protection, loopholes could be created without proper rules in their home country of the U.S. Washington needs to create an environment where consumers feel secure about using those online services.

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