Google is facing a new wave of scrutiny from the House Judiciary Committee, as lawmakers look to determine whether the company's plans to add Chrome DNS encryption are anti-competitive. Specifically, the House is considering the search giant's plans to add DNS encryption to Chrome over top of TLS.
Investigators in the recently reported probe are also seeking to determine how Google wants to use the data it collects from Chrome.
That determination rests at the center of the probe. Google's use of the data while preventing others' access could be viewed as a ploy to give it an advantage. The move would prevent others from having access but might prove beneficial to the search giant's advertising business, in particular. Since its browser is so widely used, that would give Google an unfair advantage over some of its competitors
This House examination of Google DNS plans is being spurred by ISPs
For now, details about the House Judiciary Committee's probe are slim. Google has indicated that adding encrypted DNS over TLS serves to bolster security for users. That security would apply directly to spoofing attacks and snooping via websites a user visits.
The search giant is also not the only company planning this type of user protection either. Firefox parent Mozilla is considering its own implementation of a similar solution for its browser. As noted above, the reason behind the investigation has more to do with the scope of Google's user base than the plan itself.
Internet service providers (ISPs) appear to be among the driving forces behind the House Judiciary Committee's decision to investigate. The primary concern for those providers, lodged in a formal complaint against Google, is that the new protocol will remove their access to the data in question. Those companies cite Google's dominance on both mobile and desktop platforms.
Beyond blocking access, the ISPs express concerns that Google could "become the overwhelmingly predominant DNS lookup provider."
Presumably, the outcome would give Google even more power and influence. If the ISPs are correct, the result will be Google's ownership of the browser, DNS services, and user data.
Lawmakers push Google in two seemingly opposite directions here
Google's intentions with its plans for DNS over TLS appears, at the surface, as a beneficial step for end-users.
Spoofing and snooping have become hot topics for consumers amid major breaches and security lapses over the past several years. Adding to that, users and world governments alike have expressed increasing concern over corporate oversight and privacy.
In the interim, laws have been created and are being explored internationally that are intended to end practices that endanger or misuse users' data. Companies from Google and Twitter to Facebook and Amazon have been forced to change practices and policies or face consequences. Google faced one such fine, costing the company $57M in the EU, due to GDPR laws.
Anti-trust suits have also sprung up in the wake of privacy concerns. Lawmakers and users are increasingly worried about tech companies' ability to consolidate influence. That comes along with the ability to stifle competition in some cases.
Elected officials are effectively pushing Google in two opposing directions here, as a result. The company claims to intend encrypted DNS over TLS as a protective measure for Chrome users. Simultaneously, it's facing down opposition to those plans from competitors in the industry. Those are industry leaders who would prefer not to lose access to users' data.
That leaves the House Judiciary committee to weight the impact of encrypted DNS over TLS in Chrome. The determination will need to factor not only the plan on the market as a whole but also on users. Any decision made here could also spread to impact plans for other browsers such as Firefox too.