Already 51 attorneys general have signed on to an antitrust investigation into the business practices of Google. Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, recently wrote about why they were looking at Google’s dominance in the marketplace.
He cited Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry who posed an interesting hypothetical question. Imagine America before the invention of radio or television, when print media (especially newspapers) were the source of content. Would we allow one person or one company to own all the printing presses, printing ink, and printing paper in the country? The answer, of course, is no.
Although it is a good analogy, Ken Paxton says it doesn’t fully reflect the dominance of this tech giant. “For a more complete picture, we would need to add (at the very least) that the company also owns most of the stores where you can buy the most widely-read newspapers and is effectively the only company that can sell you an ad in any newspaper throughout the country.” He also adds that Google is also the only source for businesses to find out what newspapers their potential customers are reading.
I have often said that if a service on the Internet is free, then you are the product. Google is collecting massive amounts of information on you through Google searches, Gmail, Chrome, and other Google services. It then connects advertisers that want to place online ads with publishers who want to sell advertising space on their websites. And because it has so much data on you, it can guarantee very targeted ads.
These attorneys general want to answer whether Google gained and maintained control over these various markets by merit or by unfair, anti-competitive practices. This is an investigation worth pursuing.