Google Apologises Over Leaked EU Strategy Document

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Google chief executive Sundar Pichai apologises to EU commissioner Thierry Breton over leaked document recommending ‘pushback’ over new competition rules

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has apologised to Thierry Breton over internal documents that laid out a plan of attack on the EU commissioner.

In an online meeting with Breton Pichai said such tactics were “not the way we operate”.

Pichai told Breton, who is responsible for the EU internal market, that the documents had not been shown to him and he had not sanctioned the plan, according to reports citing people familiar with the call.

The document laid out Google’s response to planned EU legislation placing greater controls on large tech companies.

Image credit: European Commission google
Image credit: European Commission

‘Pushback’

It detailed a 60-day strategy intended to remove “unreasonable constraints” to Google’s business and to “reset the narrative” around the proposed legislation.

The document set a specific objective to “increase pushback” on Breton to help weaken support for the legislation.

The call was initiated by Google before the document leaked and took place on Thursday of last week, the European Commission said.

Breton brought up the document and showed it to Pichai during the call.

During an Anglo-American Press Association online meeting he said he was “not naive” and had not been surprised by the plans, Reuters reported.

Wild West

“I had a discussion with Sundar… I told him what I had to tell him… he apologised. (I told him) If you need to tell me something, my door will always be open,” Breton said.

Breton told Pichai durin the call the internet cannot remain a “Wild West”.

“We need clear and transparent rules, a predictable environment and balanced rights and obligations,” he told Pichai.

Pichai said during the call that he would engage directly with Breton if he sees policy specifically targeting Google, reports said.

Breton and European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager are set to announce the draft Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act on 2 December.

The documents aim to place significantly more controls on large tech companies operating in the EU, obliging them to share data with competitors and regulators and regulating the way they promote their own products and services.

Competition

Vestager has imposed fines totalling 8.25 billion euros (£7.4bn) on Google over the past three years for competition abuses involving its shopping comparison services, Android mobile operating system and advertising businesses.

Breton said the regulations are aimed at levelling the playing field for small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Europe’s position is clear: everyone is welcome on our continent – as long as they respect our rules,” Breton told Pichai.

Google said the two had a frank and open conversation.

“Our online tools have been a lifeline to many people and businesses through lockdown, and Google is committed to continuing to innovate and build services that can contribute to Europe’s economic recovery post-Covid,” Google said in a statement.

The comments come at a tense moment, with US regulators also piling pressure on dominant tech firms such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

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