Judge defends secrecy of proceedings in Google antitrust case

"I take seriously when companies are telling me that if this gets disclosed, it's going to cause competitive harm."

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
The antitrust case brought against Google by the Biden administration has largely taken place away from public view after the tech giant requested proceedings be held behind closed doors to protect confidential information about its business.

US District Judge Amit Mehta has faced criticism for his decision to abide by Google's demands. He has defended the move, claiming that as someone with limited knowledge of the tech industry, he trusts companies only ask for such protections when public access would prove a legitimate threat.

"I am not anyone that understands the industry and the markets in the way that you do,” Mehta said to lawyers during a pretrial hearing, "and so I take seriously when companies are telling me that if this gets disclosed, it's going to cause competitive harm."

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Mehta shifted the blame to attorneys for the Department of Justice, who he said should let him know whether it is "objectionable to go into closed session," since they "represent the public interest."

Apple, who entered into a contract with Google to make it the default search engine on Safari, has been involved in the case, and also claimed it was the DOJ who had "unilaterally" shielded proceedings from the public.

In a statement, DOJ lawyer David Dahlquist said that was untrue, but noted that while the US "has always been focused on open courtroom and public access," he and his team "have not objected to the closing when the third parties and Google have put that forward."

Since the trial began on September 12, the vast majority of proceedings have taken place behind closed doors, however much of the testimony delivered on Tuesday and Wednesday was open to the public, suggesting Mehta could be changing his tune.

Over the next few weeks, both sides will present evidence for and against the claim that Google allegedly built up its near monopoly via illegal business deals with other tech companies.
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