Solution Providers Debate Impact On Customers Of New Google Anti-Trust Investigation

Google is under scrutiny for allegedly violating anti-trust laws by manipulating search results and collecting excessive data on its users. Solution providers say the recent headlines aren't lost on business customers, but the recent investigation opened against the internet giant may prove more impactful to consumers.

’No entity in the history of the world has collected as much information on individual consumers as Google,’ Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said in a news conference after serving Google with a subpoena and opening an investigation into the Mountain View, Calif.-based company Monday. ’We should not just accept the word of these corporate giants that they have our best interests at heart. We need to make sure that they are actually following the law, we need to make sure that consumers are protected, and we need to hold them accountable.’

In June, the European Commission issued a hefty $2.7 billion anti-trust fine to Google for what it said was the company favoring its own shopping services over competitors. In 2013, attorneys general in 37 states reached a $7 million settlement over Google’s unauthorized collection of Wi-Fi data through its "Street View" digital-mapping vehicles.

[Related: New Google Framework Extends Gmail With Partner Solutions]

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In addition, popular business review website Yelp wrote to attorneys generals in all 50 states in September that Google allegedly has been copying images from its service without permission for the past six years, an allegation that Hawley promised to investigate as well.

Hawley’s office is looking into the way Google is handling its users' private information, the use of other content providers’ information on its sites, as well as potential bias in search engine results.

Google Monday said it had not yet received the subpoena. However, a spokesperson for the company said in a statement that it has "strong privacy protections in place for our users and continues to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment.’

Recent coverage around security and data tracking has captured the attention of business customers who are asking about the reports in the news, said Jim Suss, co-founder and president of LAM Technology, a Fort Worth, Texas-based solution provider that partners with cloud providers such as Rackspace and TierPoint.

"There are going to be a lot of companies that compete with these big hyper-scalers, and smaller, local cloud players with good reputations are going to take away business from the big guys. I'm seeing it all the time," Suss said.

Google partners today can resell G-Suite, Google's storage, communications and collaboration applications, which includes Gmail, Google Maps For Business and the Google Cloud platform.

SADA Systems, a born-in-the-cloud managed services provider, is a longtime Google partner that is selling G-Suite products, as well as the Google Cloud Platform and Google Maps.

For its part, SADA Systems isn't seeing the anti-trust investigations impact Google's channel partners, or result in waning interest from business customers, said Jason Cutler, director of channel sales for the Los Angeles-based company.

Cutler said that while the anti-trust news might be impacting consumers, Google's productivity applications and its compute and storage available through Google Cloud is continuing to appeal to businesses, especially those in the retail space.

"We're seeing [retail customers] especially looking to leverage Google's Big Data platform, BigQuery and storage," Cutler said.

Still, a company landing in the news for potential data privacy violations could have a long-term impact, said Michael Knight, president and CTO of Encore Technology Group, a Greenville, S.C.-based solution provider.

" If someone believes something isn't secure, it takes a ton of information to get them to change their minds," Knight said.

Encore Technology Group is a Microsoft Gold partner and Azure Circle Partner. The solution provider also is a Google Education partner in supporting its K-12 and higher-education customers using Google Classroom, Google's learning management system and suite of applications for students and teachers.

From a security standpoint, Knight said that his customers feel more comfortable with Microsoft.

"We haven't heard about Microsoft collecting data, and Microsoft's platforms are easier to see and understand the different security contexts that [partners] can build out for customers," he said. "Our customers understand Microsoft's platforms and domains, so for them, they feel a lot more secure."

LAM Technology's Suss also pointed out that for his customers, security is a priority.

"I think that security is still the number one concern among customers, and there are smaller companies with attractive cloud offerings with a lot less moving parts than a large provider like [Google]," Suss said.