December 3, 2014
The European Parliament recently voted in favor of breaking up Google in European territories. While the nonbinding vote holds no legal power, the decision to vote in favor of such a break-up shows the resistance that Google has encountered from the European Union. The vote comes in the wake of a recent appeal by privacy advocates and the EU to extend the “right to be forgotten” policy for European citizens beyond the European Google search engine.
According to The New York Times, the “right to be forgotten” policy was created to protect the privacy of European citizens on the Web. The policy upholds “a process for people to remove links to unwanted content from Google’s search results.” Some argue that the policy is flawed as it only applies to “Google’s local European sites… like Google.de in Germany and other search engines.”
Last week, a European body comprised of 28 national privacy regulators made a push to extend the policy’s guidelines outside of its current boundaries.
“European fears of American technology giants have been stoked in the last 18 months by the revelations of Edward J. Snowden… about American intelligence agencies’ spying activities and perceived easy access to the world’s tech infrastructure,” suggests The New York Times in a related article.
Ultimately, the European Commission holds the final say as to whether or not legal actions can take place against Google. Pressure may come against the Commission’s newly appointed antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager. In her position, Vestager has the power to decide whether or not to pursue legal charges against Google for an inquiry that “asks whether the company’s search results favor other Google-related services and hobble competing search advertising platforms,” notes NYT.
The consequences may not result in the break-up of Google. A more likely outcome would be Google paying a fine or undergoing a change in business practices.
Other major tech companies to have undergone investigation from Europe’s Commission include Microsoft and Intel. Intel suffered a fine of $1.37 billion back in 2009 and Microsoft had to pay over $3 billion spread across a decade. With Google under the legal scope, the tech company is looking at fines that could exceed $6 billion, according to NYT.