European Parliament to vote on Google break-up

Nov 27, 2014, 3:23 AM EST
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google Inc., holds a book branded with the Google logo as he sits and listens during a panel discussion on the future of the internet in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The European Parliament is due to vote later on a proposal to break Google's search business away from its other services. The BBC reports:

It is the latest twist in a four year antitrust investigation which has so far failed to reach a conclusion. The body has no power to break up the net giant but the vote will send out a clear message about whether politicians want regulators to take a tough line.

Senior US politicians have criticised the proposal. A joint letter from two US government committees said that the way the EU is targeting US technology companies raised questions about its commitment to open markets.

"This and similar proposals build walls rather than bridges [and] do not appear to give full consideration to the negative effect such policies may have on the broader US-EU trade relationship," wrote senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch and congressmen Dave Camo and Sander Levin. Meanwhile trade body Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) said that the "increased politicisation" of the Google competition investigation was "deeply troubling".

Guenther Oettinger, Europe's new commissioner for digital affairs, was also said to be opposed to the move. He is quoted by German business journalist Roland Tichy as saying there would be no break-up.

Privacy advocates and regulators in Europe say that the "right to be forgotten" ruling applied to Google earlier this should apply to websites outside Europe. Google's Chairman Eric Schmidt says that the ruling does not need to be extended to the U.S. CNET reports:

The European Union in May decided people could request that their names be excluded from search results in Europe, if the results were deemed outdated or irrelevant. So far, more than 170,000 requests have been made, asking to remove all manner of webpages, including news articles, from Google's search results.
 
Google, the largest search engine in Europe, applied the ruling only to local versions of the site -- like google.fr in France or google.de in Germany -- but not Google.com. The EU wants to change that.
 
The body representing the EU's 28 national privacy regulators said in a press conference Wednesday the ruling should be applied to all Internet domains, according to news reports.
 
"All the extensions are included, including the .com," said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of France's privacy watchdog and the Article 29 Working Party, according to Bloomberg.
 
 
The guidelines also rebuke the owner of the world’s most-used search engine for routinely notifying news outlets about story links it has removed -- a process that has thrown some people who’d sought extra privacy back into the media spotlight.
 
“All the extensions are included, including the .com,” Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of the EU group of 28 privacy watchdogs, told reporters in Brussels today. “There is no legal basis for routine transmissions from Google, or any other search engines, to editors,” she said. “It may, in some cases be necessary, but not as a routine and not as an obligation, as Google said.”
 
Data protection regulators agreed on the guidelines after a two-day meeting, which will push the Mountain View, California-based company to apply privacy requests from EU residents to its primary Google.com site in the U.S.
 
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has argued that a ruling in May by the EU’s top court -- in which it ordered search links tied to individuals cut when those people contend the material is irrelevant or outdated -- didn’t need to be extended to the U.S. site.

 

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