US Senate to Investigate Google Dominance?

Publishers Weekly posted an article yesterday about Senator Mike Lee’s (R-UT) letter to Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) who chairs the Senate’s Antitrust Subcommittee in which Senator Lee states:

“Google also gathers an enormous amount of consumer information through its related products and services including Gmail, Google Checkout, Google Books, and Google Web History. . . . The combination of behavioral and personal information enables Google to generate consumer data that is unprecedented in scale and scope. These activities raise serious privacy concerns and may be indicative of an important market that is largely unconstrained by competition. Antitrust enforcement may unlock beneficial competition for the protection of user privacy and avert the need for additional privacy regulation.”

As we have long argued, Google’s book scanning is little more than an attempt to glean more and more personal information about search users that can be monetized through the sale of targeted ads.  And as Senator Lee, who is the highest-ranking Republican on the subcommittee, recognized, Google’s dominance of search (and the book search vertical, if the GBS is approved), is bad for competition and bad for consumers.

It seems as though Chairman Kohl may agree – on the day before Senator Lee sent his letter, Chairman Kohl released a list of the Antitrust Subcommittee’s priorities for the year, including “closely examin[ing] allegations raised by e-commerce websites that compete with Google that they are being treated unfairly in search ranking, and in their ability to purchase search advertising. We also will continue to closely examine the impact of further acquisitions in this sector.”

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