Justice Department and state prosecutors investigating Google for alleged antitrust violations are considering whether to force the company to sell its dominant Chrome browser and parts of its lucrative advertising business, three people with knowledge of the discussions said…
The conversations — amid preparations for an antitrust legal battle that the Department of Justice is expected to begin in the coming weeks — could pave the way for the first court-ordered break-up of a U.S. company in decades. The forced sales would also represent major setbacks for Google, which uses its control of the world’s most popular web browser to aid the search engine that is the key to its fortunes.
Discussions about how to resolve Google’s control over the $162.3 billion global market for digital advertising remain ongoing, and no final decisions have been made, the people cautioned, speaking anonymously to discuss confidential discussions. But prosecutors have asked advertising technology experts, industry rivals and media publishers for potential steps to weaken Google’s grip… A major antitrust report that the House Judiciary Committee released this week found that Chrome’s market share allows Google to “effectively set standards for the industry,” an issue of particular relevance as Chrome phases out cookies. “Google’s ad-based business model can prompt questions about whether the standards Google chooses to introduce are ultimately designed primarily to serve Google’s interests,” the House report said. “Market participants are concerned that while Google phases out third-party cookies needed by other digital advertising companies, Google can still rely on data collected throughout its ecosystem.”
Friday Politico reported the antitrust suit against Google is likely to be filed “early next week, but without the sign-on of any Democratic attorneys general, four people familiar with the case said Friday — upending the Trump administration’s hopes to enlist bipartisan support for its fight against the internet giant…”
Instead a bipartisan group of states “expects to file an antitrust complaint challenging Google’s search practices at a later date, the people said. That group, led by Democratic attorneys general in Colorado and Iowa along with Nebraska’s Republican attorney general, has expressed concern about what they view as the Justice Department’s narrow approach to the case, the people said. Filing a separate suit would allow more leverage if the Department of Justice negotiates a settlement with Google they don’t like, they said.”
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