Nov 292014

In an escalation of a pushback against Google, the European Parliament on Thursday passed a non-binding vote urging anti-trust regulators to break up the search giant’s various businesses. The move could be the latest setback for Google, which has been struggling with several privacy issues on the continent, and has been targeted by EU regulators since 2010.

The move is symbolic and unenforceable but it favors encouraging more technology growth across the European Union, and comes a day after Europe’s privacy regulators asked Google and other American technology heavyweights, such as Apple and Facebook, to further extend the EU’s new “right to be forgotten” privacy protection to their websites outside Europe, The Wall Street Journal reported, adding that legislators voted to approve the break-up resolution by 384 to 174.

“Monopolies in whatever market have never been useful, neither for consumers nor for the companies,” Andreas Schwab, a German conservative lawmaker and co-sponsor of the bill, said, according to Reuters. According to Schwab, the European Commission is responsible for ensuring equal opportunities for businesses across the 28 countries of the EU.

Although the vote does not permit regulators to force Google to break up, it will allow the European Commission and state competition authorities to question Google about its business model and pass anti-trust regulations as a next step, forcing the company to change the way it conducts business in Europe.

Google controls about 90 percent of the search market in Europe, while also conducting businesses ranging from enterprise services to maps. The company also owns the Android operating system, which is installed on millions of smartphones around the world, and its Chrome web browser dominates the Internet. Europe’s consumers also are increasingly reliant on devices manufactured by American companies such as Apple and share a significant part of their lives and personal information on social networking sites like Facebook.

In addition to the pressure on Google, France and Germany have also asked the EU to consider implementing fresh competition rules that would make it easier to regulate global Internet companies. And, according to Margrethe Vestager, the European Competition Commissioner, the case will be reviewed with the complainants before taking the next step, Reuters reported.

Here is an excerpt from Thursday’s resolution, obtained by Tech Crunch:

The resolution underlines that “the online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market” and welcomes the Commission’s pledges to investigate further the search engines’ practices… It calls on the Commission “to prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by operators of search engines”, stressing the importance of non-discriminatory online search. “Indexation, evaluation, presentation and ranking by search engines must be unbiased and transparent”, MEPs say… Given the role of internet search engines in “commercialising secondary exploitation of obtained information” and the need to enforce EU competition rules, MEPs also call on the Commission “to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services” in the long run.

An actual break-up of Google is highly improbable, the New York Times reported, citing legal experts. However, the report added, the ruling is significant in that it reflects the growing unease in Europe over the dominance of American technology companies, and its effect on local privacy laws, and the region’s economy in general.

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