As part of the government’s antitrust case over its search business, lawyers for the United States Department of Justice claim that Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, destroyed internal corporate communications and have asked a federal judge to sanction the company.
Unsealed in a federal court in Washington, DC on Thursday, the DOJ alleged that Google did not properly suspend a policy allowing the automatic, permanent deletion of employees’ chat logs.
The government claims that in 2019, Google “falsely” told the US that it had suspended “auto-deletion” and was preserving chat communications in accordance with a federal court rule governing electronically stored information. The Department of Justice requested a hearing so that the court could consider suitable punishment.
According to DOJ attorney Kenneth Dintzer, “Google’s daily destruction of written records prejudiced the United States by preventing it from accessing a rich source of candid discussions between Google’s executives, including likely trial witnesses.”
Thursday, Google issued a statement “strongly” disputing the DOJ’s claims. Throughout the years, “our teams have worked diligently to respond to inquiries and litigation,” the company’s spokesperson said. According to Google, the company “has produced over 4 million documents in this case alone, and millions more to regulators around the world.”
Google has refuted the allegations that it used its market dominance to engage in anticompetitive behaviour. This is the second time the government has tried to impose sanctions on Google in this case, and the first time they were successfully blocked. Attorney-client privilege was cited by the DOJ as the reason Google withheld internal documents from antitrust investigators last year. Google has dismissed the claims. In April 2022, the judge decided against penalising Google for its actions that occurred before the lawsuit was filed in 2020.