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Google Data Use Should Be in Antitrust Talks, Group Tells EU

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc.’s power to wield customer data should be taken into account by European Union regulators as settlement talks on an antitrust probe reach the final stages, a consumer rights group said.

The dominance of Google is “largely fueled by its access to users’ personal data,” Monique Goyens, director general of the European consumers’ association BEUC, said in a letter to Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s antitrust chief.

“The privacy policy of Google is directly linked to its dominance in the online search and should therefore be considered as an aggravating factor in your analysis,” Goyens said in the letter dated today.

While the EU negotiates with Google to resolve an antitrust dispute over allegations that the owner of the world’s largest search engine discriminates against rivals, the company has clashed with data-protection watchdogs. Earlier this month, the EU urged Google to fix flaws in its updated privacy policy or face possible fines. Authorities worldwide have also fretted over privacy lapses with Google’s Street View mapping service.

Almunia has said the company has a limited time to settle the antitrust probe into whether it thwarts competition in the market for Web searches.

“As discussions on a possible settlement with Google are at an advanced stage, we would like to convey our concerns as regards the remedies under consideration,” Goyens wrote to the Brussels-based commission.

‘Rigorous Remedies’

“Infringements of competition rules call for strong and rigorous remedies which go beyond the field of consumer information,” she said.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said the company continues “to work cooperatively with the commission.”

At issue are Google’s promotion of its own specialist search services, copying of rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and agreements with websites and software developers that may stifle competition in the advertising industry, Almunia said in May. Talks with Google are “ongoing on the basis” of those concerns, said Antoine Colombani, a competition commission spokesman.

Consumer associations represented by BEUC “may be directly affected by Google’s practices,” Goyens wrote. The groups’ price comparison websites inform people on products and services and “are in direct competition with Google’s own services.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at

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