The matters concerning privacy have always been a top priority for all the nations around the world. The privacy of users was recently breached by the internet giant, Google which was fined by European Union for breaking the antitrust laws and hence broke Google’is attempt to dominate the market.
The European Union has always emphasized on the importance of an individual's privacy and the need for stricter laws regarding the online privacy of the users. The European Union has a very strong antitrust law that states,
“Prohibits agreement between two or more independent online marketers to restrict competition and prohibits firms that hold a dominant position in the market to escalate the prices or to withhold production.”
These two laws prevent any clashes in the market and help in the harmonious and fair function of all the competing companies. The National Competitive Authorities (NCA) have been assigned the task to uphold the law and to make sure all the companies in the current market abide by them. It also co-operates with the national court so that these laws are only applicable to the companies under the umbrella of the European Union. Any infringement of these laws cause a severe damage to the economy and can hinder the process of growth of the country. The customers harmed by the violation of antitrust laws are eligible for collective damages. The directive on antitrust damage actions was signed into law on 26 November 2016 and was effective from 5 December 2016. All the countries under European Union were given a deadline up to 27 December 2016 to transpose the law. This law was formulated to ensure competition in international market was not distorted.
Google is an international company that specialises in internet based specialties and products. It collects information such as region, language, age range and preferences to offer better service to the users. The name Google has now become synonymous with internet due to its humongous user base. It collects information about the apps used to access Google, IP addresses, crash reports and system activity to be able to provide a better experience. The personal data is encrypted in transit. The information collection process is regularly reviewed to prevent unauthorised access to the systems. The access to the information is restricted to Google employees, Contractors and agents who utilise the information to improve the performance. Any violation to this will be addressed immediately by the concerned authorities to protect the users. Non personal identifiable information may be shared with publishers, advertisers and developers.
In December 2010, the investigation against Google by European Union began.
It claimed that Google controlled more than 90% of the online search market in Europe which went against the fair competition policy. Microsoft accuses Google of taking measures to redirect all the search engine related searches towards itself.
Foundem, e-justice and Ciao were the three companies which initially filed the complaint which was joined by Microsoft in March 2011. In 2013, Google offered concessions and started advertising its competitors but did not admit to the wrongdoing. By 2014, it proposed settlements instead of being fined that were accepted by Alumnia. But this decision was not accepted and faced severe backslash. The companies which had originally filed the complaint argued that they were not consulted before agreeing to this decision. The decision was now postponed to October 2014. The European Union decided to break up the search engines from other commercial services to be able to create a healthy competition.
After a 5 year investigation, in April 2015, European Union filed antitrust charges against Google. It also included a complaint against android for using Google features by default. The company was given 10 weeks to respond but had to be postponed again till the end of August 2015. The company Alphabet was created to oversee the operations of Google and a significant change in its corporate structure was seen.
In April 2016, the charges against Google for breaking the antitrust laws were formally filed. It quoted that Google had broken the law by requiring manufacturers to pre-install the search engine on the devices, prevented other manufacturers from selling smartphones with the competitors search engine and gave incentives to manufacturers for using their product. In April 2016, News Corp issued a complaint against Google for the loss of potential advertisement revenues. In June 2017, The European union ended its investigation and fined Google for €2.4 Billion.
The official statement said that Google misused its market dominance by giving importance to its other subsidiaries. By September 2017, Google began changing its search results and displayed advertisements in the space at the top of product related searches. It also separated from its shopping service to abide by European Union regulations.
July 2018 bought another stream of fine for Google, it was fined €4.34 billion again for violating the antitrust laws of European Union. Google released a statement stating that it will appeal the decision.
This incident is an important measure to remind us that our online privacy is extremely important and we should let it be compromised by firms like Google.