Microsoft and Google to feel wrath of EU

By Sooraj Shah
15 Oct 2012 View Comments
Joaquin Almunia is vice president of the EC

Microsoft and Google are to feel the full force of EU regulations this month as antitrust and privacy concerns threaten to catch up with the technology giants. 

The EU could issue Microsoft with a formal antitrust complaint, after it failed to display a "browser choice screen" (BCS) on Windows PCs in Europe, as it was required to do under a settlement reached with the European Commission (EC) in December 2009.

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The EC said it had received complaints that Microsoft may have not provided all customers with a browser choice screen, which would have given users the option to use Internet Explorer alongside Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox and Safari.

In an open statement, Microsoft admitted that it missed serving the BCS software to roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1, and said this was due to a "technical error".

"We have fallen short in our responsibility to do this. While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologise for it," the statement reads.

According to German publication Der Spiegel, the EC is readying a "statement of objections" and after several weeks in which Microsoft could respond to the charge, The EC will confirm the penalty to be given.

The EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia (pictured) had announced "serious consequences" would await Microsoft, and the fine could be worth billions of pounds.

Meanwhile, Google is set to find out what data protection chiefs within the EU have thought about controversial changes to its European privacy policy, as the French data protection commissioner, the CNIL, will hold a press conference tomorrow to announce the results of its deliberations.

According to the Guardian, data protection chiefs will say that they have determined that Google's changes breached EU law because they did not give users any chance to opt out. 

The changes, which were carried out in March, meant that Google merged together the data it gathered from separate parts of its services such as YouTube, Maps and its search function, in order to target adverts to its users or recommend videos to watch on YouTube depending on users' most-used search terms.

Google said that the changes would comply with EU law, but at tomorrow's conference CNIL may request it to separate the data back into individual services.

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