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Internet Protocol Antitrust Control Study of Google Draws House



Congressional antitrust investigators are reviewing Google's plans to use a new Internet protocol, concerned that it may give the company a competitive edge, making it difficult for other people to access consumer data.

In a letter this month, investigators for the House Judiciary Committee asked Google for their "decision to accept or promote acceptance" of the protocol, which

alphabet
Inc.

the company says it is focused on improving Internet security.

House researchers also ask whether data collected or processed through the new protocol will be used by Google for any commercial purpose, according to a September 13 letter.

The Ministry of Justice is aware of concerns about the protocol change and has recently received complaints, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The new standard would encode Internet traffic to improve security, which could help prevent hackers from tampering or hacking into websites.

But the new standard may change the competitive landscape of the Internet, cable and wireless companies say. They fear being left out of much of their user data if browser users move to a new standard that many ISPs do not currently support.

"Currently, every ISP has an idea of ​​the traffic of its users. and that will change "as a result of the change, he said

Andy Ellis,

Chief Security Officer at

Akamai Technologies
Inc.,

which provides corporate services to the Internet but does not support the new standard.

Google, which has a wealth of user data due to its dominant search, plans to begin testing the navigation protocol with about 1

% of its Chrome browser users next month, a first step towards broader adoption of the new technology.

Google says it supports the new technology to improve the security and privacy of users and that changes to the browser will leave users responsible for who shares their internet browsing data.

Many ISPs do not support the new standard, and these ISPs are afraid of losing access to a valuable data source if browser manufacturers like Google force their customers to switch, something Google says it does not intend to do .

The Justice Department is investigating the largest tech companies in the US for allegedly monopolistic behavior. About 20 years ago, a similar case threatened to destabilize Microsoft. WSJ explains.

The new standard upgrades an essential element of the Internet, known as the Domain Name System or DNS. This software accepts an electronic user name request for a website such as wsj.com and, like a phone book, provides a series of Internet protocol address addresses used by computers.

"Google has no plans to centralize or modify the DNS of Google default vendors. Any claim that we are trying to become a centralized encrypted DNS provider is inaccurate, ”the company said in an email statement.

Google and another browser manufacturer, Mozilla Corp., want to code DNS. This can help prevent fraud or hacking into websites that users visit, for example. Such a move could complicate efforts by government agencies to spy on Internet traffic. However, this could prevent service providers who do not support the new standard from observing consumer behavior in data collection .

Like Google, Mozilla's Firefox is planning a large-scale deployment of the protocol, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks. Firefox plans to eventually move most US users to the new standard, perhaps by the end of the year.

Mozilla is taking a more aggressive approach than Google. It will move most users – but not corporate users using providers such as Akamai – to the new standard automatically, even if the change involves changing their DNS service providers. This would move the DNS services used by users away from companies such as

Comcast
Corp.

and

AT&T
Inc.

Mozilla sees antitrust issues raised by Google as "fundamentally misleading," according to Marshall Erwin, senior director of Mozilla Trust and Security.

Service providers raise these concerns to undermine the new standard and to ensure that they continue to have access to DNS data, he said.

While Google takes a less aggressive approach than Mozilla, the long-term impact of the change can be huge. Google Chrome has about 64% of the global browser market, according to StatCounter, the Internet data tool.

Share your thoughts

Do you think Google would restrict competition in Internet navigation? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.

As Google operates its own DNS service, known as Google Public DNS, some are concerned that the DNS upgrade may ultimately concentrate too much of Internet traffic in Google's hands.

ISPs have recently intensified their criticism of the issue, with some speculating that Google may also emulate Firefox's more aggressive approach, which gives the browser manufacturer control over which DNS service to use.

"Because most of the world's Internet traffic … Running through the Chrome browser or Android operating system, Google can become the predominant DNS search provider," a coalition of Internet service providers says in letter dated September 19 to legislators. "Google will gain more control over user data across networks and devices worldwide. This could impede competitors and possibly impede competition in advertising and other industries. "

They urged lawmakers to urge Google not to impose the new standard as the default standard on Chrome and Android.

A spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the group had" heard from interested parties from all countries.

Giving Google an unfair advantage in user data is not the only concern that is raised. Some also claim that the new system could harm security by circumventing parental controls and filters which with This is a problem in the US

Write to John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com and Robert McMillan at Robert.Mcmillan@wsj.com

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