The EU might levy a ginormous fine against Google

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The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels.
Image: Virginia Mayo/AP/REX/Shutterstock

European Union officials believe Google is muscling out competitors by not allowing phone designers to build devices using only parts of Google’s Android operating system, and by preventing full access to Google Play Store unless phone designers include Google Chrome and Search.

Now, according to Reuters, officials have put together an expert panel to weigh in. If the experts agree, Google could face a fine even more massive than the $2.7 billion fine the EU levied against the company in June for similar reasons.

This is only the latest in a stream of legal troubles for the company in the European Union and Russia.

The EU has proven much more wary of gigantic tech companies than the United States, and Google has begun to take the brunt of the EU’s ire on two broadly defined fronts, the first of which we might call monopolistic dominance (or abuse of power, depending on your perspective).

Officials levied the biggest fine in Google’s history against the company in June after they found the search engine had been used to boost the competitiveness of Google Shopping, a “comparison shopping service.” This cost Google, which has for a while been under the umbrella of parent company Alphabet, $2.7 billion.

Before that, in April, Google was forced to cough up a few million dollars after an anti-monopoly organization determined the company had boosted its own apps over the apps of competitors on smartphones that ran Google’s operating system, Android.

Privacy has become the other legal minefield for Google and other giant tech firms.

Google was slapped with a legal injunction last month by the Higher Regional Court of Munich, Germany, after the court determined the company wasn’t doing enough to fall in line with the EU’s “right to be forgotten” wherein citizens can ask search engines to wipe links with personal data deemed false or misleading in one way or another.

In recent months, Facebook has also found itself in legal trouble in Europe over privacy concerns. A French commission fined the social media platform earlier this year after it said Facebook was targeting ads to users via their data without telling them. The fine was microscopic by comparison with the latest fine levied against Google. But a new set of EU laws will fall into place in 2018 that will allow the government to fine tech firms up to four percent of their yearly revenue for privacy violations. That means billion dollar fines could become something we hear about a lot more often.

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