The European Commission has charged Alphabet-Google with abusing its dominance in the market for “general Internet search services,” by implementing an Android “strategy of mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general Internet search.” The EU objects to a variety of secret Google contract conditions to manufacturer licenses to leverage the dominant (>90% share) Android OS to secretly restrict and foreclose competition in ways that ultimately harm consumer choice and innovation. The EU effectively charged that Google has already anticompetitively extended its >90% dominance in search to dominance in the >90% share of the “licensable smart mobile operating system,” and to dominance in the >90% share of the “app stores for the Android” market.
Few outside of Alphabet-Google understand the immense market, economic, and technological power of an unaccountable monopoly over the underlying software that controls most all mobile devices in the world. Fortunately EU antitrust enforcers are some of the few who understand it.
In the next several weeks, expect the EC’s Competition Directorate to decide that Google is in fact dominant with >90% share of Internet search in Europe and that Google has abused its search dominance by biasing its own Shopping service over competitors. It also could formally charge Google for abuse of its search dominance in contractually tying Google Search and other search-driven apps like Maps, YouTube, etc. to Android to extend its search dominance to mobile search and to the operating system market where Android now owns >80% share.
What we have learned in the last two months is that Google is much more worried than it says about the risks it faces from a variety of real structural changes it may have to make in its core business overseas in the months and years ahead — where the vast majority of Google’s users are, and from where over 50% of its revenues come.
The juxtaposition of Google tacitly accusing the EU with “digital protectionism” and “discrimination” as the EU’s Digital Chief, Günther Oettinger, visits D.C. and Silicon Valley, while the Google-created Internet Association this week asks for U.S. protection from ISP “discrimination” in an appeals court brief in support of the FCC’s Open Internet order – exposes exceptional hypocrisy.
For months, now, the mass media and the financial markets have anxiously watched and waited to see the outcome of a war of words, accusations, and threats that have been fought between Greece and its Eurozone and European Union partners.
Most have missed entirely the broader significance of the EC-DGComp’s laser-focused Google Statement of Objections (that charge Google is dominant in search and is abusing that dominance in Google Shopping by self-dealing via preferencing Google content over competitors’ content) in the broader context of the EU’s new “platform neutrality” principle to advance a European Single Digital Market.
The US-EU “competition” of protectionist digital industrial policies — U.S. Title II net neutrality vs. the EU’s emerging “platform neutrality” plans — creates an ironic backdrop to negotiations for the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) “free” trade agreement. Heightening the irony, the Obama Administration, not the European Commission, has been the protectionist digital industrial policy leader, trailblazing the political path for the EU’s Single Digital Market to follow.
After the 2009 Copenhagen global climate conference failed to produce a legally-binding global treaty to replace the lapsing Kyoto Protocol, climate campaigners are eager to put some kind of win on the board. Therefore, despite threats to veto the deal and discussions that ran into the wee hours, the European Union’s agreement on a new set of climate and energy goals is being heralded as “a new global standard”—though it is really more “I will, if you will.”
Last week a federal judge ordered Microsoft to hand over its data stores to the government, including data housed overseas. The ruling marks an ominous new chapter in Internet privacy, one that could have lasting impacts on both individuals’ privacy online and the nature of international law.
Google has privacy clay feet. The NSA and Big Data may also, since they are relying on many of the same outdated legal assumptions as Google. In the last few months, both the U.S. Supreme Court and European authorities have made new baseline privacy decisions that have greatly strengthened individuals’ right to privacy. As a result, they’ve also exposed and heightened Google’s massive privacy liabilities.
A cautionary tale about the pitfalls of bureaucratic incompetence played out in Ireland over the last several days. American country music star Garth Brooks was scheduled to play five concerts in the Croke Park arena, one of the largest venues in the country. In all, 400,000 tickets were sold. That is an astonishing number, considering Ireland’s population is just under 4.6 million. Close to one in ten citizens was planning to attend!
This summer’s elections to the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union, marked a radical swing against the greater centralization of power in the hands of Eurocrats in Brussels. A great many of the Euroskeptic parties that had big wins were the French National Front and the British United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Other Euroskeptic parties on the continent, in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece, and elsewhere, also made out quite well. It was a wake-up call to many European leaders who had been complacent and tried to label Euroskeptics as fringe or extremist. The performance of UKIP in particular, which beat all three mainstream parties in the election, made those labels ridiculous.
The siren song of independence and national self-determination has sounded once again across Europe. It is a song that holds echoes of a century ago, when the internal force of nationalism convulsed the European empires into world war. Yet, while the song remains the same, the tune has changed.
Few French economists have achieved the kind of adulation Thomas Piketty has experienced recently from the media and the left. Within the context of the American political scene, Piketty’s dour predictions for the future of capitalism and his call for a “utopian” global wealth tax fit perfectly with the left’s frame of an inequality message.
In 2013 the price of gold bullion lost 28 percent and closed near its low for the year. It was the first annual decline since 2000 and the worst since 1981. Gold ETFs experienced record redemptions, shrinking the funds 33 percent by year end, but they were the exception. Marcus Grubb, Managing Director of the World Gold Council, reported, “2013 has been a strong year for gold demand across sectors and geographies, with the exception of western ETF markets.” While investors were leaving ETFs, demand for gold jewelry, bars and coins was increasing, as were purchases by central banks. Globally, consumer demand increased 17 percent for gold jewelry and 28 percent for bars and coins.
Why are European Commission antitrust authorities bending over backwards to settle with Google? The EU’s apparent preference for settling, rather than prosecuting Google for antitrust violations, turns a blind eye[…]