DOJ Investigation Threatens Google Maps

By neub9
3 Min Read

Google’s dominance in the mapping space is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Officials are examining whether the tech giant is violating antitrust laws with its Google Maps app. The DOJ is investigating Alphabet, Inc., Google’s parent company, over its bundling of services for consumers. This marks the third antitrust inquiry into the company since 2019.

Bloomberg and Politico are both reporting that DOJ officials have been reaching out to Google’s competitors and customers recently to find possible witnesses for what could end up being a lawsuit challenging its dominant grip on location information and digital maps, according to multiple sources.

The terms of service on Google Maps indicate that developers are obligated to use its bundled services, including its search products, while using the maps. Google’s terms essentially represent a binding agreement prohibiting developers from combining its information, reviews, and photos on other mapping options.

While Google’s first two antitrust lawsuits are pending, a third could be on the way as a result of the DOJ’s investigation. However, sources close to the matter told Bloomberg that the DOJ has not yet decided to file a case at this time and they haven’t determined what should be included in the complaint.

“Developers choose to use Google Maps Platform out of many options because they recognize it provides helpful, high-quality information,” a Google spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo. “They are also free to use other mapping services in addition to Google Maps Platform – and many do.”

Google Maps offers a variety of search options for users looking for establishments, from the Search Near Me tool to connections with rideshare companies and delivery services—a bundle option that the DOJ argues violates antitrust laws. However, Google contends that maintaining its data connection is necessary to avoid “a bad user experience and erode user trust.” Integrating the data with other mapping companies, according to Google, may cause display and quality issues, and even safety risks.

Competing mapping outlets, including Garmin Ltd. and Mapbox Inc., voiced opposition to Google’s policies at a Congressional House Hearing in February 2021, where the companies complained about Google’s restrictions.

A 2020 staff report by the House Judiciary Committee found that “Google closely tracks and pressures developers who use Google’s place data in conjunction with mapping data from a non-Google firm, effectively forcing them to choose whether they will use all of Google’s mapping services or none of them.”

The committee further reported that according to one firm, Google’s tactics equate to “a bigger player putting a gun to our head saying, ‘Switch or else.’”

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