Google has a lot at stake today when Eric Schmidt, the company’s Executive Chairman, testifies before the U.S. Senate subcommittee on anti-trust. Google flourishes in the market, but is under increasing pressure in the realm of politics and regulation. Such a paradigm-shifting company inevitably encounters political scrutiny, and Google has successfully dealt with challenges in the past concerning data privacy, intellectual property, and getting approval for acquisitions. Yet the opening of a formal anti-trust inquiry by the US government marks a qualitative shift.
Previous inquiries focused on non-core products (Gmail, Google books, Street View) or took place in isolated overseas markets. Now the target is the search engine — the very core of Google’s universe — with near identical proceedings in the U.S., the EU, and South Korea. While the Senate subcommittee won’t rule on whether Google is in violation of antitrust laws, “the goal of the hearing is (…) to enable the Senate’s leading antitrust members to signal their views to the FTC and DOJ,” as MF Global analyst Paul Gallant explained. CNET has called Schmidt’s appearance “one of the most crucial Capitol Hill showdowns in the company’s history.”