U.S. Attorney Generals are set to file an antitrust probe into Google and Facebook Monday, but the real question will be how the move will impact advertisers -- if at all.
Will the probe
influence the choices marketers make when it comes to advertising on Google?
Not according to Google. "Google's services help people every day, create more choice for consumers, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country,” a Google spokesperson wrote in an email to Search Marketing Daily. “We continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector."
Jonathan Kagan, VP of search at Cogniscient Media, doesn't expect any impact from what he's seen. But that is not always the case.
Google began giving Android users in Europe a choice to select a provider to power a search box on their home screen and as the default in Chrome when installed. The change complied with a 2018 European Commission ruling that said Google had an unfair advantage by pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android smartphones and notebooks.
Aimclear CEO Laura Weintraub said it's too early to tell whether or not this probe will affect marketers. "We're tracking the investigation into Google and Facebook, but it won't impact marketers immediately because we don't know what state and federal investigators will do with it," she said. "It could be a couple of years before we see anything from this."
In the latest probe, speculation has been mounting all week, but The Wall Street Journal broke the story Friday, reporting that based on “people familiar with the matter,” state attorney generals will formally launch separate antitrust probes into Google and Facebook.
While a bipartisan group of about three dozen state attorney generals joined the effort, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will lead the examination of the Google’s impact on digital advertising markets, as well as potential harms to consumers from their information and ad choices being concentrated in one company.
On Friday, New York Attorney General Letitia James confirmed to the WSJ that her office was organizing a bipartisan, multi-state probe into Facebook. Joining the Facebook investigation are attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia.
These types of probes seem to occur when governments do not fully understand the technology and how one company could possibly dominate a market. For example, in 1998 the Department of Justice probed Microsoft for 98% dominance in the PC operating systems market for the Internet Explorer web browser. Prosecutors alleged that Microsoft used its dominance to stifle the growth of competing browsers.
Microsoft, for the most part, seems to have dodged many of the biggest fines coming out the European Union and the United States, but the company could face a “GDPR penalty after the Netherlands' data-protection office asked its Irish counterpart to investigate new aspects of Microsoft's Windows 10 telemetry data collection,” reports ZDnet.
The agency, pre-GDPR in 2017, found that Microsoft didn't tell Windows 10 Home and Pro users the type of personal data it collected and how it used it.