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Google back in EU's antitrust crosshairs

European regulators want to know how and why the company collects data.

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Google has run afoul of EU competition rules before.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Antitrust regulators for the European Commission are conducting an investigation of Google's data-collection practices -- an action that suggests the EU isn't convinced that its recent record fine on the search giant had the desired effect.

An EU executive said it's seeking information on how and why the company collects data. The EU is particularly focused on local search services, online advertising and web browsers, among other issues, according to a document seen by Reuters, which earlier reported the probe.

"The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google's practices relating to Google's collection and use of data. The preliminary investigation is ongoing," an EU spokesperson said Monday.

Google said it continues to discuss data collection concerns with the EU.

"We use data to make our services more useful and to show relevant advertising, and we give people the controls to manage, delete or transfer their data," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

The investigation comes as Google and other Silicon Valley giants face increased scrutiny from government officials and regulators in the US. The Justice Department in July announced an antitrust probe into the tech industry more broadly, targeting Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Meanwhile, House Democrats in June announced their own investigation into tech giants, meant to explore whether the companies are engaging in "anti-competitive conduct."

The EU probe comes less than a year after the search giant was hit with a $1.7 billion fine from the European Commission in March for "abusive" online ad practices. The Commission said Google exploited its dominance by restricting its rivals from placing their search ads on third-party websites.

It was the EU's third fine against Google in three years and brought the company's total bill to 8.2 billion euros ($9 billion) following almost a decade of investigations into its shopping practices, Android rules and advertising dominance.

Originally published Dec. 1 at 1:22 p.m. PT.
Update, Dec. 2 at 7:25 a.m.: Adds EU comment.