Google is worried an antitrust probe will reveal its secrets

Google may not be known for respecting the privacy of others, but it doesn't want anyone knowing its own secrets.

We're all accustomed to everyday users, competitors, regulators, and even governments looking for assurances that their important data would be protected against Google's misuse – but how often does Google have to raise its voice, to make sure its sensitive information is protected out there in the world?

Well – the shoe seems to be well on the other foot here, in a probe conducted in Texas into allegations of the giant's antitrust behavior.

According to a report from the Hill, Google is very eager to make sure that third parties, i.e., consultants hired by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to help build the case, “won't leak any confidential information to Google's rivals.”

And who knows it better than Google how “sharing” sensitive data with third parties can negatively affect those the data belongs to – Google routinely does it to their billions of users. In fact, its dominance in the tech market in many segments in the US, and in the western world, is squarely built on that “sharing” business model.

But now that a multi-state probe filed in Texas is underway, Google, formally its parent Alphabet, have their feathers ruffled at the very thought.

Google has asked the judge to impose “an order limiting how much sensitive business information the two consultants can obtain and preventing them from working with Google competitors during or after the investigation,” the Hill writes.

The subtle assertion that Google, in its core businesses, actually has any competitors in the US market aside – the giant's petition cites what appear to be rivals rather than true competitors – America's News Corp and Microsoft, and Russia's Yandex – and consultants who previously worked on these company's cases against Google.

In the petition, Google says that two of the Attorney General's consultants “work for competitors and complainants.”

But some observers see this as simply Google's tactic to muddy the waters and delay the proceedings, as it's not at all unusual for the government to “coordinate” with competitors of a company under investigation – after all, this is the same method used in the antitrust case against Microsoft in 2001, brought by the US government.

Internet freedom group Demand Progress executive director David Segal is quoted by the New York Times as saying, “This looks like a sideshow. These are standard delay and deflect tactics by which one of the most powerful corporations in the history of the world are trying to avoid scrutiny.”

Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]