Exclusive: U.S. probe of Google Maps picks up speed – sources


  • Unique: U.S. probe of Google Maps picks up velocity – sources

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Division has breathed new life into an investigation of Google Maps to find out if bundling the service along with different Google software program illegally stifles competitors, in keeping with two sources aware of the matter.

The probe of the Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) unit first got here to mild in late 2020 and had been quiet till latest months when investigators once more started making inquiries, the sources mentioned.

Google mentioned it cooperates with regulators and welcomes their questions. The Justice Division declined remark.

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The probe has two elements.

One half focuses on apps, together with for navigation, which are offered by means of infotainment screens in autos. In its Google Automotive Providers bundle for automakers, the search firm bundles collectively Maps, the Google Play app retailer, Google Assistant and different providers. Automotive firms are prevented from, for instance, mixing Google Maps with voice assistants developed by smaller rivals, one supply mentioned.

In response, Google mentioned the combination gives the very best consumer expertise, and that in some cases a rival voice assistant can perform with Google Maps.

The opposite part focuses on app and web site builders. Particularly, the division is taking a look at Google’s requirement that if a web site or app makes use of one Google know-how, say Google’s location search, the web site or app developer can’t use maps or different applied sciences developed by Google’s rivals, the 2 sources mentioned.

A congressional antitrust panel concluded in a Large Tech workers report issued in 2020 that Google “enforces this provision aggressively” and successfully forces builders “to decide on whether or not they’ll use all of Google’s mapping providers or none of them.”

Google mentioned its insurance policies are aimed toward stopping poor experiences, noting that mixing a Google Map with info on one other map may result in errors. The insurance policies additionally stem from restrictions that companions place on how Google can use their information, it mentioned.

The insurance policies have some exceptions, and Google added that builders “are additionally free to make use of different mapping providers along with Google Maps Platform – and plenty of do.”

MONEY AND DATA AT STAKE

Two builders have advised Reuters over the previous 12 months that they acquired violation notices from Google lately after mixing information from the corporate’s providers with maps from different suppliers. The builders mentioned the competing choices had been cheaper or extra detailed than Google Maps in some circumstances.

The builders, talking on the situation of anonymity as a result of worry of retaliation by Google, even have expressed concern in regards to the firm’s new privateness choices for customers of its Android cell working system that would restrict information assortment by rival mapping suppliers.

At stake are cash and information, together with about locations and folks’s pursuits. Google doesn’t individually disclose gross sales from licensing the map-related instruments. However Google through the years has hiked mapping charges and tied the enterprise to its Cloud unit, whose gross sales development is of eager curiosity to traders.

As well as, the enduring use of Google’s mapping providers allows the corporate to gather extra information to keep up its dominance over competing choices.

Tying merchandise collectively will not be at all times unlawful however antitrust enforcers have stepped in when such bundling doesn’t profit shoppers.

In 1998, the federal government sued Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) for allegedly breaking antitrust legislation by tying its working system monopoly to Web Explorer to crush rival browser Netscape.

There isn’t a signal that the division’s workers investigating Google Maps have beneficial whether or not to sue, one of many sources mentioned.

Google already is combating a lawsuit the division filed in 2020, accusing it of breaking antitrust legislation to keep up its dominance of search and search promoting. It goes to trial in 2023.

A lawsuit in opposition to Google over its dominance of the internet advertising enterprise has lengthy been anticipated to observe. read more That probe is additional alongside than the one into the maps enterprise, one supply mentioned.

The antitrust enforcer may very well be hampered in wrapping up the long-running probes as a result of it has been swamped by an unusually massive variety of merger evaluations and merger-related trials. A merger trial is predicted in April and two extra are anticipated in August.

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Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.
Enhancing by Chris Sanders and Matthew Lewis

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Exclusive: U.S. probe of Google Maps picks up speed – sources

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