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House Raises Antitrust Concerns Over Google’s New Internet Plans

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Google’s plan to use a new internet protocol has caught the attention of Congressional antitrust investigators.

In a letter sent to the tech giant on September 13th, investigators for the House Judiciary Committee requested information about Google’s “decision regarding whether to adopt or promote the adoption” of the protocol, which would encrypt internet traffic.

House investigators are concerned that the move will give Google an advantage over its rivals by making it harder for others to access consumer data. In addition, a source told The Wall Street Journal that the Justice Department has recently received complaints about the protocol change.

While Google says that the new standard would improve online security, cable and wireless companies have warned that it could potentially shut them out of user data. In addition, there is concern that Chrome browser users would be encouraged to switch to Google services that support the protocol. Google, however, said it will not do that.

“Right now, each internet service provider has insight into the traffic of their users, and that’s going to shift” as a result of the change, said Andy Ellis, chief security officer at Akamai Technologies Inc.

The new standard will change a fundamental building block of the internet: the domain name system (DNS), which takes a user’s electronic request for a website and provides the internet protocol address numbers used by computers.

“Google has no plans to centralize or change people’s DNS providers to Google by default. Any claim that we are trying to become the centralized encrypted DNS provider is inaccurate,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Mozilla’s Firefox is also planning a small-scale roll-out of the protocol, and is taking the aggressive approach of automatically switching most consumers to the new standard. While Google is not going to that extreme, the impact of its change is larger since Chrome currently has about 64 percent of the world-wide browser market.

“Because the majority of world-wide internet traffic…runs through the Chrome browser or the Android operating system, Google could become the overwhelmingly predominant DNS lookup provider,” a coalition of internet service providers said in a Sept. 19 letter to lawmakers. “Google would acquire greater control over user data across networks and devices around the world. This could inhibit competitors and possibly foreclose competition in advertising and other industries.”

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