Google Accused of Illegally Deleting Chats in Antitrust Investigation, Just Like Fortnite

Google’s alleged deletion of chat messages between employees could have serious consequences for the company. Epic Games has accused Google of anticompetitive conduct over its Play Store and rules over in-app purchases, and the DoJ’s allegation could give credence to those claims. If Google is found guilty of anti-competitive behavior, it may lose its monopoly on search engines and be obliged to compete with other companies in various sectors.

Google faced antitrust charges in 2020 for monopolizing the search and advertising market. The company denied any wrongdoing, but the Justice Department pursued the case anyway. In a settlement agreement reached in December of that year, Google agreed tourenggtie its business practices with other web companies and to submit to regular reviews by regulators.

The DoJ’s assertion that Google should have stopped its auto-deleting chat history practice in anticipation of litigation is an argument with which the technology giant may not agree. Instead, Google employees were able to turn their messaging app’s chat history on or off at will, much as they pleased. This seemingly contradictory behavior undermines the government’s claims of negligence by Google.

The filing says that Google had even trained its employees how to use the feature to discuss sensitive topics instead of using email, which is a common way for companies and people to communicate. This is likely because email can be easily viewed and analyzed by others, which could lead to embarrassing or compromising situations. By using Hangouts, Google was able to keep these conversations private, which could be beneficial in cases where something sensitive needs to be discussed.

Despite Google’s written policy days after the litigation was filed authorizing employees to control their chat history by selecting “history on” or “history off,” many plaintiffs say they were unaware of this option and that their chats are permanently stored on Google servers. This lack of transparency about Google’s chat history retention practices has lead to accusations that the company is violating its own policies and invading personal privacy.

Google’s retention of custodial chats from its users raises significant ethical and legal questions, as the company falsely claims to have put a legal hold in place to suspend auto-deletion. The deliberate concealment of this policy from U.S. authorities and the court, as well as its recent revelation that it continues to delete chat messages after 24 hours, raises serious concerns about Google’s transparency and honesty.

Google destroyed evidence that could have helped the US government prosecute employees of the company for alleged antitrust violations. The company did this even after becoming a defendant in the court case. This behavior demonstrates how Google views its responsibility to uphold judicial transparency and protect its own interests above all else.

Epic Games is concerned that if it continues to withhold its 24-hour deletion policy from the U.S. government, Google will continue to wield too much influence over government policy. This issue has come up multiple times in recent history, including with the Fortnite lawsuit and the AlphaBay darknet marketplace takedown.

Although Google has taken measures to ensure that the deleted chats are not retrievable, the company is refusing to disclose key communications or witnesses that could support DOJ’s case in advance of the requested hearing. The court should issue sanctions against Google for its refusal and order it to provide written declarations and oral testimony from witnesses, in advance of the requested hearing. This will help speed up DOJ’s case and give all interested parties a better understanding of Google’s Chat deletion practices.

One question that remains unanswered is whether or not the court will consider electronic chats between employees to be trade secrets. If they are, Google may find it difficult to obtain them as part of its antitrust case against the company. In the Epic Games case, a similar issue was raised when Apple tried to withhold emails from Microsoft during their legal battle. The emails were seen as important evidence in proving Apple’s claims that Microsoft had violated its software patents.

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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