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HomeWorldA Key Question in Google’s Trial: How Formidable Is Its Data Advantage?...

A Key Question in Google’s Trial: How Formidable Is Its Data Advantage? | International news

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the federal government First monopoly test of the modern Internet era. It’s less than a week old, but a central character has already emerged: data. Its role, its use and its power are key issues in the Justice Department’s case against Google.

The government claims Google bribed and intimidated smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung and browser maker Mozilla into being its featured search engine, funneling far more data to Google and shutting out competitors.

Data, the government says, drives Google’s success. Each search query adds data, which improves search results, attracting more users who generate even more data and advertising revenue. And Google’s ever-growing data advantage, the government claimsIt is an insurmountable barrier for rivals.

The data is “oxygen for a search engine,” Kenneth Dintzer, a senior attorney at the Justice Department, declared in his opening statement Tuesday.

The government’s argument is not that Google broke the law by becoming a search giant. Instead, the government claims that after Google became dominant, the company violated the law with its tactics to defend its monopoly. The weapon was contracts with industry partners to be its default search engine: exclusive agreements that froze rivals, the government claims. So Google is now protected from competition behind a fortress built on data.

Google responds that the government’s case is an artifact of a misleading theory that is not supported by facts. The government has chosen to “ignore inescapable truths,” John Schmidtlein, Google’s top lawyer, said in his opening statement.

That truth, according to Google, is that the company maintains its leadership position in search thanks to its technical innovation. It competes with others for default placement contracts and wins primarily because Google is the best search engine. Those contracts, Google maintains, help lower smartphone prices and benefit consumers.

The government, Google insists, is exaggerating the importance of data. In a brief submitted this monthThe company stated, “Google does not deny that user data can improve search quality, but Google will demonstrate that there are diminishing returns to scale.”

The trial resumes this week and the Justice Department continues to present its case. The first witness scheduled to testify Monday is Brian Higgins, a Verizon executive who oversees customer and mobile device marketing. The trial is scheduled to last 10 weeks. A ruling by Judge Amit P. Mehta will be issued next year.

Google owns 90 percent of the search engine market in the United States, while Microsoft’s Bing is a distant rival, with less than 5 percent. The difference, Google says, is explained by the intelligence of its engineers, not the size of its trove of rich data.

To make its point, Google will call an expert witness, Edward Fox, a computer scientist at Virginia Tech. Professor Fox has conducted a “data reduction experiment” on behalf of Google to estimate how much the quality of Google searches would decrease. Google would use much less data (approximately the amount available to Bing). The result, according to Google’s presentation, was that the data difference explains only part of the gap in search quality between Google and Microsoft.

Google’s public messages on that topic have been constant over the years. But the government claims the messages have been misleading. In his keynote address, Dintzer said Google had “misled the public about the importance of data.”

To try to show the deception, the government presented as evidence last week emails between high-level Google employees arguing about that point. Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, was questioned about defaults and data as the Justice Department’s first witness.

What was at stake were the comments Mr. Varian made in a 2009 interview with technology news site CNET.

In the article, Varian said: “The arguments about scale are quite false.”

To explain it, he adds in the article: “It is not the quantity or quality of the ingredients that makes the difference. “They are the recipes.” It was a clever analogy: the ingredients were the data, and the recipes were the ingenious algorithms written by Google engineers. It reached a wider audience when Mr. Varian’s explanation appeared in a Time magazine article.

But in an email to Mr. Varian Shortly afterward, Udi Manber, a senior engineer on Google’s search team, took issue with the economist’s description. “It is absolutely false that scale is not important,” Manber wrote. “We make very good use of everything we have.”

In an email chain with other Google employees, Mr. Manber wrote“I know it reads well, but unfortunately the facts are incorrect.”

A lot has changed since then. The government presented the emails to cast doubt on the credibility of what Google says in court. These are a few snippets at the beginning of a long bench trial that will generate reams and reams of evidence, testimony and rebuttal for Judge Mehta to weigh and consider.

But what is already clear is that the debate over the data in the search (whether it has market-determining power or not) is a fundamental issue, and both sides will likely be forced to return to it repeatedly in court. .



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