Europe’s competition regulator is preparing the groundwork to file charges against US search giant Google, in an antitrust investigation over the next few weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday (1 April), citing a person familiar with the matter.
The European Commission is asking companies that filed complaints against Google for permission to publish some of the information they submitted confidentially, the newspaper said, citing several people familiar with the requests.
Antitrust experts stated that the requests were a strong indication that formal antitrust charges were being prepared in the case.
Google was not immediately available to comment.
The Bay Area-based technology company has been engaged in a five-year-old antitrust investigation with the European Union that has stalled multiple times and caused a political uproar.
While European Union lawmakers overwhelmingly backed a motion in November urging anti-trust regulators to break up Google, the US Mission to the European Union had suggested that politicians should not influence the inquiry.
A panel of experts appointed by Google to advise it on how to implement EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling, had suggested in February that the links be removed only from websites in Europe.
European privacy regulators, however, want Internet search engines such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing to scrub results globally, not just in Europe.
The European Court of Justice ruled on 13 May 2014 that Internet search giant Google could be forced to remove links to online content that breaches EU privacy laws.
The ECJ ruled that Google should, under certain circumstances, edit or remove its Internet search results, backing the EU's drive to introduce a "right to be forgotten" on the Internet.
European regulators are now working on guidelines for appeals from people whose requests to remove information has been turned down by search engines such as Google or Microsoft's Bing.
Google says it has received over 120,000 requests from across Europe to remove from its search results everything from serious criminal records, embarrassing photos and negative press stories.
The May ruling from Europe's top court sparked a lively debate between free speech advocates who say it will lead to a whitewashing of the past, and privacy campaigners who say it simply allows people to limit the visibility of some personal information.
- The Wall Street Journal: EU lays groundwork for antitrust charges against Google