The feds are stepping up efforts in their long-running probe of the Google Maps service, adding yet another potential headache for the tech giant during a period of mounting scrutiny from the Justice Department.
The probe is focused on Google’s sprawling mapping business, which includes a massive stockpile of location data for businesses and other points of public interest. Google Maps results are integrated into the company’s search engine, one of its chief sources of revenue.
DOJ officials have met with Google competitors and customers while seeking more information on the mapping business, Politico reported on Wednesday, citing three sources with knowledge of the probe.
An antitrust lawsuit targeting Google Maps could be filed by as soon as this year, the sources added, though they stressed no final decision was made and the exact details of a potential complaint were still being considered.
Antitrust officials are assessing whether Google has engaged in anticompetitive practices by requiring app developers to use its map and search products together, rather than allow them to seek out competing services. The requirement is included in Google’s terms of service.
Google’s restrictions have rankled some of its rivals, including Garmin and Mapbox, who questioned the policy during a hearing on Capitol Hill in February 2021, according to Bloomberg. Critics argue the restrictions stifle competition.
Google has argued the restrictions around its mapping business are meant users receive accurate information.
“Developers choose to use Google Maps Platform out of many options because they recognize it provides helpful, high-quality information,” Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels said in a statement. “They are also free to use other mapping services in addition to Google Maps Platform — and many do.”
The DOJ’s probe of Google Maps’ business practices first surfaced in late 2020. Reuters reported last March that officials had “breathed new life” into the investigation, but details had been scarce in the months since.
The Post has reached out to Google and the Justice Department for comment.
Google and other Big Tech firms have faced increased federal scrutiny in recent years.
Earlier this week, Google appeared before the US Supreme Court for oral arguments on a case centered on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability for third-party content posed on their platforms.
The Justice Department also joined with a group of eight states in January to sue Google for allegedly monopolizing the digital advertising market.
A separate federal lawsuit accusing Google of holding an illegal monopoly over online search was filed in October 2020.