Ex-Google exec said tech giant pushed for default status in search engine deals at antitrust trial

A former Google honcho testified Wednesday that the number of executives working to win default status with mobile carriers grew dramatically when he was with the company as the government’s landmark antitrust case against the search giant kicked into high gear.

Chris Barton, who worked on the company’s partnerships with major mobile carriers such as Verizon and AT&T from 2004 to 2011, said that Google quickly saw the massive value of mobile users relying on its search engine on early smartphones.

Barton testified the new hires negotiated agreements that would make Google the default search engine for various mobile carriers and makers of Android smartphones.

Google would aggressively press for exclusive status, he said during the second day of the expected 10-day trial.

The company knew that smartphone users would have “difficult time finding or changing to Google” if Microsoft’s Bing service was their default search engine, according to Barton.

The testimony is central to the DOJ’s claim that Google has taken anti-competitive measures to ensure that its search engine retains a dominant hold on the US market.

Chris Barton
Chris Barton helped negotiate Google’s deals with mobile partners.
Sportsfile via Getty Images

During opening arguments on Tuesday, the feds claimed Google paid “more than $10 billion per year” to many companies, including phone makers Apple and Samsung, browser operators like Mozilla and wireless providers to achieve a 91% share of the search engine market.  

On his LinkedIn profile, Barton “closed partnerships with the world’s largest mobile carriers that drive hundreds of millions in revenue” while serving in an executive role for strategic partnerships on mobile devices from April 2004 to January 2010.

Google has denied wrongdoing.

“That probably explains why I was deposed by the DOJ in 2021,” his profile adds.

Barton later served as Google’s head of Android business development in the Americas from January 2010 until he departed the company in November 2011.

Prosecutors had called Google economist Hal Varian as their first witness on the trial’s first day and pressed him for context on internal discussions about its search engine becoming a default option for users.

Department of Justice lawyer Kenneth Dintzer
Department of Justice lawyer Kenneth Dintzer is pictured.

Meanwhile, Google attorney John Schmidtlein in his opening statement rejected the government’s argument that the company has an illegal monopoly, claiming that users opt for Google search due to its quality rather than exclusivity deals.

Schmidtlein said the payments to partners were fair compensation and that users can easily change their default search engine if they wish.

Monopoly Man
A person dressed as the Monopoly Man was spotted at Google’s antitrust trial this week.
Getty Images

“Users today have more search options and more ways to access information online than ever before,” Schmidtlein said.

The Google antitrust trial is the largest of its kind in more than two decades. The outcome could have major implications for how Google and other Big Tech companies operate in the midst of ongoing federal regulatory scrutiny over their business practices.

If the Justice Department wins the case, Judge Amit Mehta could order Google to discontinue certain practices or even compel the company to sell off some of its assets.

With Post wires

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