EU ups antitrust pressure on Google; cites NSA scandal, Android domination as a factor

According to a lawyer close to the EU's investigation, the search giant's alleged complicity with the National Security Agency's surveillance of Europeans is a "factor" in the reopening of an antitrust case.

Image: Google

European regulators may soon revisit a proposed settlement with Google as the continent steps up its offensive against the search giant.

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday cited people familiar with the case, pointing to the likely reopening of a number of antitrust jars, which may see the Silicon Valley poster child land back in hot water after previously reaching a broad range of antitrust settlement agreements.

It may be the last punch EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia throws as he is expected to leave his position as the 28 member state's chief antitrust official in November.

According to one antitrust lawyer speaking to the newspaper, the concerns worsened following the National Security Agency surveillance scandal, in which documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggested a level of complicity on Silicon Valley's part in domestic and international spying .

But any reopening by Europe of a settlement it reached with Google (for a fourth time) would be almost unprecedented. It does, however, show a level of complexity with negotiating terms on both sides.

The European Commission will also reportedly look into Android, the search giant's mobile platform, as a possible hook for additional investigations. The antitrust arm of the Brussels-based commission recently sent out requests to handset makers to detail their dealings with the software, according to the newspaper. Android remains the most popular mobile software in the world, with Apple trailing behind.

While Android has not yet been a main focus for the Commission, instead taking on search as its main axe to grind, it could very likely become one, a person told the publication.

"The Commission is investigating certain Google practices relating to the Android ecosystem. We are currently in the fact-finding stage and formal proceedings have not been opened," Almunia previously said .