On Thursday, the US Justice Department accused Google of erasing details that would have been relevant to the government’s antitrust case against the company’s search division. Due to the company’s repetitive and deliberate destruction of written statements, the Department has requested a federal judge to conduct an inquiry and impose sanctions.
According to the Justice Department’s statement, Google has a long-standing policy of promoting employee communication through “off the record” chats immediately deleted after 24 hours.
Perhaps even more severe is the DoJ agents’ claim that Google “falsely” informed the government that it had suspended auto-deletion.
According to DOJ lawyer Kenneth Dintzer, Google’s daily destruction of written documents prejudiced the US by depriving it of many candid conversations between Google execs, including potential trial witnesses.
According to the Justice Department’s statement, The Justice Department opened an antitrust lawsuit against Google in 2020 for using illegal methods to maintain its supremacy over internet search.
Despite Google’s assurances to maintain internal communications related to the lawsuit, the company kept a policy of routinely deleting specific employee messages after 24 hours for years, the DOJ said in a District of Columbia federal court statement.
The Justice Department stated in the filing that Google was requested to discontinue its auto-delete policies as early as mid-2019 in readiness for the case.
Google not only failed to stop its auto-delete policies at the time but also continued to erase conversations every 24 hours until February 8 of this year.
During the U.S. inquiry and the lawsuit’s discovery phase, Google frequently misled its document preservation policies, giving a false impression that the company was saving all custodial conversations.
According to the filing, Google “trained” staff to use Google products, known as instant messages or Google Hangouts, as preferable to emails since the business would not store them as emails were. The DOJ claimed the practice had hampered the US government’s case against the tech behemoth.
However, Google has rejected the DoJ claims and stated that it has complied with the DoJ. They stated that the firm had produced over 4 million records in this lawsuit alone and millions more for regulators around the globe.
It is not the first time the DOJ has clashed with Google over proof. In the same case last year, the agency requested the court to penalize Google for a program called “Communicate with Care,” in which the company reportedly instructed staff to copy attorneys on emails to assert attorney-client privilege on messages that were business sensitive but failed to seek legal counsel and merit confidentiality.
If that weren’t enough, there’s cause to think more legal action is on the way. This week, Politico and Bloomberg reported that the DOJ is looking into possible antitrust violations involving the company’s well-known Google Maps program.
The accusations worsen Google’s already rough start to 2023. The tech behemoth, which was already busy defending against a federal lawsuit alleging it has established a monopoly in the search and search advertising markets, was slammed last month with yet another significant antitrust lawsuit.
The DOJ and eight state attorneys general launched that case, alleging that Google has an unjustified monopoly over the digital advertising marketplaces. Google’s ad company will have to break up if the Government has its way.