BRUSSELS – European Union institutions are piling pressure on Google to change the way it operates its business and applies EU rules.
The European parliament on Thursday approved a non-binding resolution that calls for the unbundling of search engines from other services that internet companies offer, a practice that could in theory lead to the break-up of giant internet companies like Google.
The resolution is a largely symbolic protest vote without immediate impact. But it was approved with a large majority — 384 votes to 174, with 56 abstentions — showing widespread political backing.
EU Digital Economy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger underscored the resolution was “an important expression of opinion” but he added the EU was far from tearing digital multinationals apart.
“I don’t think, at the end of the day, that the breaking up as such is what we can expect,” Oettinger said. “Rather we are talking about the consistent and correct implementation of EU legislation to ensure that the interests” of EU businesses and consumers are maintained.
EU antitrust authorities are currently investigating Google to see whether it is abusing its position following allegations it is biased in linking search results to its own services.
Competitors in Europe, where Google has an Internet search market share of about 90 per cent, have complained about the way the company gives preference to its own Google-branded services at the top of search result pages, especially when consumers are likely to be searching for something to buy.
The EU Commission made it clear that the resolution will not have an impact on the investigation into Google.
On Wednesday, an EU data protection group advised that “the right to be forgotten” rule — which requires Google to delete upon request information that unfairly tarnishes an individual’s reputation — should be expanded to the general .com domains.
The purge of search results currently applies to Google’s local search pages covering the EU’s 28 member nations and four other European countries, encompassing more than 500 million people. Those who switch to the firm’s American domain, Google.com, can find unaltered search results.
Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert