Department of Justice prosecutors didn’t mince words on Thursday when it came to describing how Google maintains its position as the internet’s go-to search engine. During the first hearing ahead of DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit trial scheduled for sometime next year, attorney Kenneth Dintzer argued to federal judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C. that, “Google invests billions in [default search engine deals], knowing people won’t change them … They are buying default exclusivity because defaults matter a lot.”
This information comes courtesy of a rundown yesterday from Bloomberg, which also cites Dintzer as arguing that Samsung, Apple, and other big name telecom behemoths are essentially offered sums so “enormous” from Google that they can’t refuse its offer. The all-but-inevitable deals subsequently stifle competition and prevent any other search engine providers from gaining a foothold within the industry. Because so many consumers don’t bother to customize or change their default search engines, Google is then allowed to harvest copious amounts of incredibly valuable user data for its own purposes.
[Related: How to change what Google thinks about you.]
Google’s attorneys, unsurprisingly, offered a different take on the tech landscape, arguing that the Big Tech company has it harder than we all think. “You don’t have to go to Google to shop on Amazon. You don’t have to go to Google to buy plane tickets on Expedia,” attorney John Schmidtlein told the federal judge. “The fact that Google doesn’t face the same competition on every query doesn’t mean the company doesn’t face tough competition.”
However, that doesn’t change the the staggering scale at which the company has orchestrated deals with internet providers and smartphone makers. By and large, consumers are going to see Chrome as their default search option upon opening a new browser tab, and various devices will often come with the Google’s search engine preinstalled. Unless someone goes out of their way to change that default, they’re going to be offering up valuable data to Google and its owners at Alphabet, Inc.
There is little dispute as to how Google dominates how we interact and discover information online. What’s being questioned in the hearing (and upcoming trial) is not only how the company pulled it off in the first place, but how it continues to maintain that top spot. Federal prosecutors are looking to open up the industry to more competition, and aim for this lawsuit to help do just that.