Germany is investigating Google’s anti-competitive practices and how the company uses user data following the adoption of changes in German law. At the same time, Russia threatens Google with heavy fines for using prohibited content in the country.
Google (GOOG, GOOGL) is facing a new bilateral investigation by the German competition authority.
The German regulator said on Tuesday that lawsuits have been launched against Google’s German, Irish and California subsidiaries based on new provisions of German competition law that apply to large digital companies.
The move follows similar investigations into Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN) operations launched in recent months.
Andreas Mundt, president of the supervisory body of the German Federal Cartel Authority (Bundeskartellamt), said: “Google’s business model relies heavily on the processing of data concerning its users. With its established access to competitive data, Google has a strategic advantage. Therefore, we will take a close look at the companies’ data processing terms and the key question in this context is whether consumers who want to use Google’s services have sufficient choice about how Google will use their data. “
Under new German legislation, which came into force in January, the Federal Cartel Authority may prohibit companies of “prime importance to market competition” from engaging in practices deemed anti-competitive.
“Due to the large number of digital services offered by Google, such as the Google search engine, YouTube, Google Maps, the Android operating system or the Chrome browser, the company can be considered to be of paramount importance to compete in different markets,” Mundt said.
Regulators said they would examine whether Google requires users to consent to the processing of their data if they want to use its services, “without providing them with sufficient information as to whether such data is processed, how and for what purpose.”
The German regulator said it will also examine how Google’s data processing policies affect the information it receives about users from third-party websites and applications.
Google said it would facilitate the German investigation and answer all inquiries.
At the same time, Google said that people use its services because they are useful, not because they are forced to do it or because they cannot find any alternatives.
The supervisor seeks to treat user data as a competition issue, but this position has been challenged by critics who argue that the issue falls within the scope of European Union privacy laws.
In parallel with the investigation launched in Germany, the Russian Communications Oversight Agency demanded that Google remove prohibited content within 24 hours, otherwise the company faces a fine of up to 10% of the company’s total annual revenue ($ 10,800- $ 54,000).
Russia has already imposed penalties on the American social network Twitter (TWTR) for the fact that the company did not remove prohibited content.
Roskomnadzor said that Google uses censorship in the Russian media, supporting illegal protest activities in the country, which “speaks of the political coloring of Google’s activities in Russia.”