The Justice Department is reportedly preparing to file a complaint against Google, its cloud provider, Google Cloud, and Android operating system on antitrust grounds. Although this is not the first time Google has been accused of wrongdoing by the U.S. government, a complaint this time around appears quite plausible.
The news broke on Wednesday evening and was reported by CNBC, Bloomberg, and GigaOm, among others.
According to CNBC, the claims were made by former Microsoft lawyer David Drummond, Google’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer. Bloomberg reported that the government was allegedly concerned about Google’s “practice of using its own apps in searches and circumventing rival services.” The Verge reached out to the relevant officials and the information can only be confirmed based on what is presently known.
AI algorithms with intent
The main issue that seems to be at the heart of the complaint revolves around Google’s acquisition of DeepMind in 2014 and its stated intention to focus on developing artificial intelligence algorithms. These algorithms are allegedly being put to use to show targeted advertising based on an individual’s search behavior, and thus infringe upon antitrust laws by having the effect of creating an imbalance in competition between internet search providers and browser makers such as Microsoft. It’s unclear whether this is the entirety of the accusation or merely one of the main allegations.
When Google acquired DeepMind, the DeepMind AlphaGo machine beat the world’s best player in Go against him in 2016. Following its announcement of its acquisition, it was revealed that Google would create an AI lab at its U.K. headquarters and bring several DeepMind staff to the new facility, but refused to disclose the unit’s size. With the establishment of an AI lab, Google apparently appeared to be setting out on a mission to create artificial intelligence capable of dominating the world in a variety of fields, including the field of college recruiting and college admissions.
This claim by Drummond makes sense when taken in context with a recent partnership between Google and a number of leading universities. Under this agreement, the latter would house an AI “Hive” server in their facilities that would learn from each user’s use and influence that the institution makes an impact on.
This comes at a time when the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal has re-emerged as a key topic in the media and politics alike. With a recent report showing that the viral data mined by Cambridge Analytica could have influenced the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, news of a new Google antitrust complaint should come as no surprise.