Google Reaches Document Protection Deal in Antitrust Fight

Google Reaches Document Protection Deal in Antitrust Fight


SAN FRANCISCO — Google reached an agreement with a group of state attorneys general on Thursday over how officials will handle information it provides during their antitrust investigation into the company.

Settling an early dispute in the case, the agreement requires the states to protect confidential information provided by Google and governs how it can be shared, according to a copy reviewed by The New York Times.

As part of their inquiry, the states, led by Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, asked Google for information related to its digital ads business. In October, Google asked a court to issue a protective order over information furnished to Mr. Paxton.

Google also asked for certain restrictions on advisers to the states who work for its competitors, including the media giant News Corp and the Russian search engine Yandex. Specifically, Google said there should be a “cooling off” period to keep them from working with its competitors.

None of those experts were named specifically in the copy of the agreement reviewed by The Times.

To get access to materials provided by Google, experts will have to sign an agreement saying they will not disclose confidential information or trade secrets.

The settlement was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

A Google spokeswoman said in a statement that the company was glad “the A.G. has agreed to restrictions about how it handles our confidential business information” but that it remained concerned with “the irregular way this investigation is proceeding.”

Mr. Paxton said in a statement that the agreement cleared the way for his investigators.

“Experts retained by the state will not be burdened with the unreasonable prohibitions sought by Google,” he said. “They will be able to lend their important expertise to the state without fear of being frozen out of other employment within their field.”

The investigation was announced in September by the attorneys general of 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. For years, Google has been accused of unfairly using its power in a variety of markets, including online search, advertising technology and smartphone operating systems.

Google is also the subject of an antitrust investigation by the Justice Department and part of a broad inquiry by the House of Representatives into the business practices of large tech companies.



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