Silicon Valley faces a world of trouble

By Leah Nylen
10/21/2020 06:12 PM EDT

Probes of the big four U.S. tech companies have sprouted across the United States and Europe as authorities investigate accusations of antitrust abuses, privacy violations and other misconduct. These are among the most important:

Google U.S.

— The search giant faces an antitrust suit by the Justice Department and 11 state attorneys general over its conduct in the search market. A coalition of 37 other states continues to investigate Google’s search engine. Probes by DOJ and the states into Google’s power in digital advertising markets continue. Separately, the Justice Department is reviewing Google’s proposed Fitbit merger.

— California is separately investigating Google for potential antitrust violations.

— Arizona has filed a complaint against Google in state court for tracking Android phone users even after people changed their privacy settings to prevent digital location tracking. Several other states, including Texas, have pending investigations into Google over the conduct.

— New Mexico and Mississippi have filed federal suits against Google over allegations it collects information on children without parental consent in violation of federal and state privacy laws.


— The European Commission has fined Google about $9 billion for violating competition law in three cases: Google Shopping, in which the search giant allegedly gave preferences to its own products; AdSense, which relates to its practices related to online advertising; and the exclusive contracts it has made with smartphone manufacturers over its Android operating system. Google is appealing all three cases.

— The regulator has opened probes into Google’s dominance in local search, its data handling practices and its proposed acquisition of Fitbit. The commission is also pursuing a broad inquiry into the so-called Internet of Things that focuses on voice assistants and smart devices, including Google’s Assistant, Nest thermometers and Home speakers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission sued Google in 2019 while alleging it misled

consumers over its collection and use of location data. The suit is ongoing.

— The ACCC also sued Google in July, saying it misled consumers over changes to its privacy policy about how data is collected and used across its products and the web.page1image36563840page1image36566336page1image36555776page1image36566720

— The regulator has opened a probe into Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit.


— Brazil’s antitrust watchdog CADE opened a preliminary probe into Google’s Android operating system in 2019.


— The Korea Fair Trade Commission opened a competition probe this month into Google over the commissions in its Play Store.

Facebook U.S.

— The Federal Trade Commission and 47 state attorneys general are investigating Facebook over its acquisitions of companies like WhatsApp and Instagram and allegations it has restricted access to its data to harm rivals. The agency is also looking into Facebook’s acquisition of Giphy, a popular source of animated graphics.

— An ongoing suit by the Washington, D.C., attorney general accuses Facebook of failing to adequately protect user data as part of the social network’s 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal. The FTC separately investigated and fined Facebook $5 billion for the same privacy lapses.

— The Washington state attorney general sued Facebook in April, saying it repeatedly violated the state’s campaign finance disclosure law by running ads without clearly identifying who paid for them.

— California is investigating Facebook over potential violations of state privacy and consumer protection laws.

The European Commission has opened a preliminary inquiry into Facebook’s data handling practices.

The social network filed a suit in July challenging the EU’s request for documents.

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority is probing Facebook’s acquisition of Giphy. Germany

— Germany’s competition authority found that Facebook abused its dominant position by combining personal data on users from websites and mobile apps with data collected by the company and its other properties Instagram and WhatsApp. A German federal court affirmed that decision in June, though additional appeals may occur.


— Brazil’s antitrust watchdog CADE has opened an inquiry into a WhatsApp payment service created by Facebook and Cielo, the largest Brazilian credit and debit card operator.page2image36548992page2image36546304

Apple U.S.

— The Justice Department and some state attorneys general are investigating Apple over antitrust concerns. — AGs in Texas and other states are probing Apple over allegations the iPhone-maker slowed down the

performance of older phones as the batteries aged.

— Epic Games has filed an antitrust suit against the company over App Store rules that require developers to use Apple’s in-app payment system, which takes a 30 percent commission out of any sales.

The European Commission has opened two competition probes into Apple in June related to its App

Store and Apple Pay.

— The regulator has also opened a broad inquiry into the Internet of Things that focuses on voice assistants and smart devices, including Apple’s Siri.


— France’s competition watchdog fined Apple €1.1 billion ($1.23 billion) in March over its contracts with resellers. Apple is appealing.


— The Korea Fair Trade Commission opened a competition probe into Apple over its contracts with mobile carriers. In August, Apple offered to pay 100 billion won ($84.02 million) to resolve the probe.

Amazon U.S.

— The FTC is probing antitrust concerns involving Amazon. Washington state and California have separately launched antitrust probes into the company.

The country’s Competition Bureau opened a probe in August into Amazon and how the company’s

policies and fulfillment services affect third-party sellers.

The European Commission opened a competition investigation into Amazon in July 2019 related to the

online merchant’s algorithms and the data it collects from third-party sellers.

— The regulator has also opened an inquiry into the Internet of Things that focuses on voice assistants and smart devices, including Amazon’s Alexa and Echo speakers.


— The Japanese Fair Trade Commission agreed to drop a probe into Amazon in September after the company agreed to pay 2 billion yen ($18.85 million) to resolve the case, which involved its unfair treatment of sellers.

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