Should Google be forced to separate its search engine division from its other commercial services? Members of the European Parliament think so. That measure was one of the actions the European Commission might take in an effort to resolve Google's antitrust problems in Europe, according to members of Parliament who are proposing the split.
A draft version of a European Parliament resolution recommended late last week that the commission break up Google. The commission maintains that's one way to solve competition problems it sees with the search engine provider, which is the biggest in Europe.
The resolution was drafted by German Parliament member Andreas Schwab and Ramon Tremosa of Spain, a member of the Parliament's Liberal group.
In the draft, they asked the Commission "to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution" to deal with competition issues in the search engine market. The Google situation is among several European tech issues addressed in the resolution.
The Parliament plans to discuss the resolution on Wednesday and vote on it on Thursday. If it's adopted, it would be non-binding, but would force a response from the Commission.
Google owns about 90 percent of the EU's search market, and the company has been under antitrust scrutiny since the company's competitors filed complaints with the European Commission four years ago. The competitors claimed that Google favored its own services in search results and decreased the visibility of results from competing sites.
Tremosa and Schwab said in a joint news release that they were against monopolies, not necessarily Google.
"We want fair and neutral search in the interest of consumers. Unbundling is one of the ideas but we proposed several ideas of solutions that are on the table," they said.
One other option would be a rotation mechanism that would display commercial services from Google and its competitors in the same place and with the same prominence on the search results page.
Such a mechanism, they said, would hinder Google from applying the ranking algorithms that it currently uses, guaranteeing that users receive relevant results while benefiting from greater choice. They compared that solution to the Browser Choice Screen that Microsoft was compelled to introduce after a EU antitrust investigation in 2009. That screen is shown to Windows users who have Internet Explorer set as their default browser.
Tremosa and Schwab called it essential that competition within the EU is not obstructed by multinational Internet companies with a dominant position. Therefore, they said, strong measures are needed against such abuses.
Google hasn't commented on the European Parliament resolution. The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), of which Google is a member, warned in a blog post that a breakup could encourage similar proceedings against other companies in the future.
"This motion, especially if passed by Parliament, threatens to undermine the credibility of a long running Commission investigation by blatantly interjecting politics into a legal process," the CCIA said.
Image credit: iStock/Artist's concept.
Posted: 2014-11-24 @ 3:54pm PT
So how would their proposed mechanism work? Microsoft let me choose the default browser, a positive choice. If I could choose the default advertiser, I would choose /dev/null. I am not interested in ads. Moreover, display is just half of the equation. The value-generating half is the spying through web beacons and other means. Once again, it seems that two EU bureaucrats with little practical understanding have made a proposal that will not address the real issue.