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Big Tech firms from Apple to AT&T wary of full disclosure in Google antitrust case

Apple's store in Manhattan.
Apple Inc. said confidential material provided for the U.S. government’s antitrust inquiry of Alphabet Inc.’s Google should not be shared with the search giant’s in-house lawyers.
(Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images)

Apple Inc. and other technology companies said confidential material they provided for the U.S. government’s antitrust probe of Alphabet Inc.’s Google should not be shared with the search giant’s in-house lawyers because the information is too sensitive.

In a filing Friday in federal court in Washington, Apple said it gave the U.S. Justice Department “competitively sensitive” documents and that allowing lawyers inside Google to see the information would result in “material harm” to Apple. A similar joint filing was made by Amazon.com Inc., AT&T Inc., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., Comcast Corp., Sonos Inc., Duck Duck Go Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc.

Concerns about such disclosures have emerged since the government sued Google, alleging abuse of its power to thwart competition. The Justice Department and Google have clashed over the extent of access to information collected by the government before it sued. The judge overseeing the case, Amit Mehta, has yet to rule on the issue.

The Justice Department has proposed allowing companies that provided information to designate their most sensitive documents as “highly confidential,” which would prevent access by Google’s in-house lawyers, according to court papers. The U.S. argues that allowing the search giant to see the proprietary information would give Google even more power in the market than it already has.

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Google pays Apple billions of dollars a year to make its search engine the default option on iPhones and other products, according to analyst estimates. In its court filing, the iPhone maker said the documents at issue relate to its negotiations with Google and other search engines and Apple’s internal deliberations about those discussions.

“Disclosure of this information to Google would directly implicate future business dealings between Apple and Google, provide Google with a substantial advantage over Apple in negotiations, and potentially disadvantage competitor search engines that negotiate with Apple and other software providers,” it said.


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