Monday 2 December 2019 4:04 pm

EU Commission to open investigation into data usage by Google and Facebook

The European Commission has begun a preliminary inquiry into Google and Facebook, and whether the two firm’s data usage complies with EU regulation.

“The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s and Facebook’s data practices. These investigations concern the way data is gathered, processed, used and monetised, including for advertising purposes,” a spokesperson for the European Commission told City A.M.

The spokesperson added that the investigations are ongoing. Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The move follows a formal investigation into Amazon’s use of data announced by the Commission in July, in which the EU is exploring whether the tech giant’s use of data from independent retailers selling on its marketplace is anti-competitive.

Read more: EU targets Amazon in e-commerce antitrust probe

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner and now vice president for digital affairs, said at the time: “E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behaviour.”

Vestager’s second term as competition chief begins today, as the Commission starts a new era under incoming president Ursula von der Leyen.

Known to many as the EU’s strongarm on Silicon Valley, Vestager has levied tens of billions of euros in fines on US tech giants over the past five years.

Read more: Why Vestager’s legacy is about to catch up with her

Google has borne the brunt of Vestager’s fines to date, spread across three separate investigations to a total of $9.5bn.

A document earlier this week showed the focus of the Google and Facebook investigations will be on data related to local search services, online advertising, online ad targeting services, login services, web browsers among others.

Both Google and Facebook are also the subject of antitrust investigations by attorneys general across more than 47 states in the US.

A New York-led probe is exploring allegations that Facebook put consumer data at risk and pushed up advertising rates. It also faces probes by the US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile a number of attorneys general met in Colorado last month to discuss their probe into whether Google’s business practices break antitrust law.

Image credit: Getty