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Justice Department probe into Google Maps dominance gains traction

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(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The Justice Department has reportedly been investigating Google Maps and its bundling of services. 
  • The lawsuit involves the use of Google Maps and policies that do not allow developers to use other services 
  • Developers, speaking anonymously, say they've been hit with violation notices from Google. 

The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating Google Maps to see if Google’s bundling of the service with other software “illegally stifles competition,” Reuters reports

The article references sources familiar with the matter, who have indicated investigators have been making inquiries into the probe that was first brought up in late 2020. 

In a statement to Android Central, a Google spokesperson said: 

"Developers choose to use Google Maps Platform out of many options because they recognize it provides helpful, high-quality information. They are also free to use other mapping services in addition to Google Maps Platform – and many do. We always cooperate with regulators and are glad to answer any questions they may have about our business.” 

Reuters notes that the probe has two components. The first focuses on apps, which are provided to vehicle manufacturers and are used in infotainment systems. Google’s Automative Service package bundles Maps, Google Play app store, Google Assistant, and other services. In this package, car companies are not allowed to use other voice assistants apart from Google’s. 

The second component focuses on app and website developers. The department is looking into Google’s requirement is that if a website or app uses one Google technology, then they are not allowed to use services or other technologies developed by Google’s rivals. For example, if they use Google’s location search, then maps or other technologies used by another company are not allowed, Reuters explains. 

Google has stated that its policies prevent poor experiences and that if mixed with outside software could present the user with errors. There are some exceptions to this rule and Google has indicated that developers “are also free to use other mapping services in addition to Google Maps Platform - and many do.” 

Reuters’ report also indicated that two developers, speaking with anonymity, have said over the past year they’ve received violation notices from Google after mixing data. They said using a competing maps platform is in some cases cheaper and better than Google Maps, which is considered one of the best Android apps

They expressed concern about Google’s privacy policy for Android mobile users, which could limit data collection by rivals. 

Google does not disclose how much it makes in sales from licensing its map-related tool. But those fees have increased over the years and Google has also tied that business to its Cloud unit, Reuters writes. 

With the use of Google Maps, Google is also able to collect more data to maintain its dominance over other companies doing the same thing. 

On another note, the department also filed another lawsuit in 2020 accusing google of breaking antitrust laws in order to maintain its dominance of search and search advertising. That lawsuit goes to trial in 2023. 

Google was also hit with an antitrust lawsuit for over monopolistic and anti-competitive practices in July 2021. 

Shruti Shekar
Shruti Shekar

Shruti Shekar is Android Central's senior reporter and also the second Canadian on the team. She was born in India, brought up in Singapore, but now lives in Toronto and couldn't be happier. She started her journalism career as a political reporter in Ottawa, Canada's capital, and then made her foray into tech journalism at MobileSyrup and most recently at Yahoo Finance Canada. When work isn't on her mind, she loves working out, reading thrillers, watching the Raptors, and planning what she's going to eat the next day.