U.S. Justice Department objects to Google advertising price secrecy

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The U.S. Justice Department is objecting to removing the public from the court during some discussions of how Google prices online advertising, one of the issues at the heart of the antitrust trial under way in Washington.

The government is seeking to show that Google broke antitrust law to maintain its dominance in online search. The search dominance led to fast-increasing advertising revenues that made Google a $1 trillion company.

At a hearing, David Dahlquist, speaking for the government, pointed to a document that was redacted that had a short back and forth about Google’s pricing for search advertising. Dahlquist then argued to Judge Amit Mehta, who will decide the case, that information like the tidbit in the document should not be redacted. “This satisfies public interest because it’s at the core of the DOJ case against Google,” he said.

Speaking for Google, John Schmidtlein urged that all discussions of pricing be in a closed session, which means the public and reporters must leave the courtroom.

“Litigation is a pretty grueling process,” said Katherine Van Dyck, an experienced litigator and senior legal counsel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “When you have these cases with massive, broad public interest and public import, the courts need to do a better job of taking that into account, change their rules and keep up with modern technology.”

Van Dyck also pointed out that the court has already closed the trial to the public for significant periods of time, including during testimony by a Verizon executive about the company’s decision to always pre-install Google’s Chrome browser with Google search on its mobile phones.

“It’s possible that he was asked about Google’s payments to Verizon but the public will never know,” Van Dyck said. “Those payments – which the government said are $10 billion annually to mobile carriers and others – helped the California-based tech giant win powerful default positions on smartphones and elsewhere.”

The sources for this piece include an article in Reuters.

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