Google is under official scrutiny by Turkish officials again, this time over how the company handles surfacing search results and targeting advertisements, with officials alleging that the company intentionally makes things difficult for others in its space. Google Reklamcilik ve Pazarlama, the company's local arm, will obviously be the primary target. Operations and procedures at Google International LLC, Google LLC, Google Ireland Limited and Alphabet Inc will also fall within the scope of this investigation, meaning that Turkish officials may request the cooperation of foreign authorities.
Background: Google has been involved in a large number of investigations into almost everything it turns a profit on these days due to its sheer operational size and the market share it commands. In this case, Turkish officials are concerned that Google is boxing out other companies looking to get into the internet searching market or trying to push ahead and get more revenue in the space, such as DuckDuckGo and Blekko. Most of the search sites toiling in Google's looming shadow have something unique to offer, such as customized "slashtags", privacy enhancements, advanced search functions, and so on. While Google's size arguably warrants a measure of vigilance on the part of regulators in all of the countries in which the company operates, it's also not hard to see Google as an easy target for cash grabs on competition grounds. Fines are a frequent occurrence on foreign soil for the company, and they can get extremely large. Turkey, in particular, recently demanded the rough equivalent of $17 million USD for competition violations regarding Google's mobile ecosystem, and gave the company six months to make sweeping changes in order to better foster competition.
Impact: Google is large enough that even record-setting regulatory fines can't really break its stride, but the near-constant barrage of regulatory scrutiny and recent bad press should be enough to raise alarm bells within the web giant's walls. Being in the dominant position that it's in with regard to a number of global markets and segments, Google has a responsibility of sorts to not only avoid intentionally anti-competitive behavior, but also to help foster competition using the power that it's earned. In the EU, for example, a recent regulatory ruling over Google's requirements for an OEM to bundle Google Play with an Android device could be interpreted as a call to Google to freely allow other companies to use the Play Store in order to enhance their Android devices, in order to foster competition. Similar situations abound across the company's operations, wherein authorities have brought to light opportunities that Google has to present consumers of its products with a range of competing products, or to use its own resources to enrich competitors. While these behaviors seemingly run counter to the goal of capitalism, the economic system of the company's home country, in Google's case, they may be essential to the survival of competing entities in some spaces. All of this is mostly conjecture, to be certain, but as regulatory authorities around the world increasingly send such messages to Google, one can't help but wonder if that is indeed the case.