Google, Justice Department Clash On Data Protection Order

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Google and US Justice Department disagree on access to confidential data supplied by Microsoft and others, as landmark antitrust case gears up

Google and the US Justice Department have failed to reach common ground over the protection of confidential data supplied to the government by third parties such as Microsoft, Google said in a court filing.

The negotiations follow a landmark competition lawsuit by the US Justice Department in October, which accuses Google of abusing its market dominance to illegally hobble rivals in areas such as search and advertising.

In the Friday filing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Google said it wants two of its attorneys to have access to the confidential data, while the Justice Department has not agreed.

Google argued it needs access to the data to prepare its defence, and said the use of the data would be strictly limited.

GoogleConfidential data

It proposed that two in-house attorneys at the offices of its outside counsel could have access to the data, or that the information could be accessed in another secure way.

Google added that it would immediately report any disclosure of the information.

Microsoft, Oracle, AT&T, Amazon, Comcast and other companies have supplied confidential information to the Justice Department as part of the case.

These third-party companies have until this Friday to propose other terms for the protective order, which the Justice Department wants put into place before the trial can begin.

Judge Amit Mehta is hearing the case, which is part of broader pressure currently being applied by US regulators on dominant tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Antitrust pressure

The chief executives of Twitter, Google and Facebook appeared before a Senate panel in October for hearings over changes to Section 230, a legal mechanism that exempts them from legal responsibility for content they make available online.

Earlier in October, a US House of Representatives report included language described as a thinly veiled call to break up big tech companies.

“Our investigation leaves no doubt that there is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation, and safeguards our democracy,” the antitrust subcommittee of the US Judiciary Committee said in the study.

The EU is also continuing to tighten regulatory controls on dominant tech players with proposed legislation set to be formally presented early next month.

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