United States v. Google – Implications of the Antitrust Lawsuit for Health Information

By Gregory Curfman (American Medical Association)

In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice and 11 state attorneys general filed an astounding civil antitrust lawsuit against Google. The cause of action was that Google has created and maintained through anticompetitive strategies monopolies on general internet search and search advertising, in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The lawsuit has sparked wide interest since it is the first time that one of the major technology platforms has been the focus of antitrust action. This article explores the implications of the antitrust lawsuit for health information. Google’s internet search engine is used for a remarkable 1 billion health-related searches per day, constituting 7% of its total search traffic. Search results for health information are typically accompanied by advertisements that appear at the top of the page. This article presents arguments that Google maintains monopolies on online search for health information and advertising for health products. A single, dominant provider of online health information harms consumer welfare since it discourages innovation in internet search and may result in a biased spectrum of health information. The article discusses another recent lawsuit, Dinerstein v. Google, a health information privacy lawsuit, which provides a broad perspective on the vast quantity of personal health information to which Google has gained access. The article concludes with a presentation of possible antitrust remedies.

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