Google and Anti-Trust Laws

May 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm (Politics) (, , , )

I just finished reading this article in the New York Times, about the Obama Administration announcing that they intend to toughen anti-trust laws that were a lot more relaxed under the Bush Administration.

According to the article, Google is the company that is being most closely watched for anti-trust violations and other corporate misconduct.  That makes perfect sense, of course, because Google has more or less cornered the search engine market, and they offer a variety of other services that really do tie together.

What I find interesting, though, is comparing Google to Microsoft.  Microsoft did have to face legal action because of its corporate practices, but so far, Google has done nothing to warrant that.  The interesting part is that Microsoft was not challenged legally for being large and successful.  They were being challenged for stifling competition.

So since Google has yet to actually stifle competition, they have so far faced only scrutiny.  I get the feeling that it helps Google’s case that nearly all of their services are free.

The whole article just had me thinking about Google in general.  It’s such a ubiquitious company these days that it’s even been turned into a verb.  How many times a day do you hear someone say, “let me google it”?  What that means, I think, is that Google has an enormous amount of power over our everyday lives, because it’s services are honestly extremely useful.

So it makes me wonder about the laws in place to protect us all from overly-powerful companies.  Maybe Google isn’t an anti-trust, but what about their terms of service and privacy policies?  I have to admit, I haven’t actually read either (like most Americans, I imagine, I hit the “agree” button without even skimming), but what if they contained clauses that were actually unfair?  What if they retained the right to certain information that really ought not to belong to them?

I get the feeling that if this ever became a problem (i.e. if anyone ever sued Google over unfair language in their TOS), Congress would probably enact new laws to guarantee that companies have fair contracts regulating the use of their products.

Ultimately, as long as Google does actually obey the law, and the law covers all the bases it needs to, I can’t help but think it’s actually a good thing to have one company offer a lot of interconnected and interrelated services.  Especially in the realm of technology, it’s the easiest way to make sure that the programs you use all work together without anyone actually cornering the whole technology market (a la Microsoft).

And aside from that, the article pointed out that Google is actually bucking Microsoft in much of what it does.  It’s interesting that Google can be large enough to make federal officials concerned about its corporate practices, but still a newcomer and innovative force in the technology industry.

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