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Photo: Stephanie Lecocq/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation on Tuesday into whether Google has abused its market position by favoring its own online display advertising technology.

Why it matters: The probe will target parts of Google's massive $147 billion annual ads business that have never been investigated formally by regulators, including ways its advertising practices may have shaped its dominance on its video platform YouTube.

Details: The probe broadly targets Google's dominance in advertising technology, which the Commission says could be "to the detriment of competing providers of advertising technology services, advertisers and online publishers."

  • The investigation will look at whether Google is making it impossible for its competitors to compete with it in ad-serving by restricting third parties from gaining access to the user data it has on different websites and apps.

Be smart: Google over the past two decades has acquired a handful of advertising technologies, like DoubleClick, an ad tech platform that it purchased in 2007, that regulators have long-argued give it dominance in advertising.

  • Google is by far the largest advertising company in the world, netting nearly $147 billion each year in advertising. Its closest competitor, Facebook makes around $83 billion.

What they're saying: "Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetize their online services,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief. “We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack.”

The big picture: This is the fourth major investigation into Google's dominance by the European Commission in less than five years.

What to watch: Regulators in the U.S. have been simultaneously probing Google for its dominance in ad tech. The U.S. has to-date failed to target Google with fines as severe as those levied on the tech giant by European regulators.

Go deeper

Tech's war for your wrist

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech's biggest companies are ramping up competition for the real estate between your hand and your elbow.

The big picture: The next big hardware platform after the smartphone will likely involve devices for your eyes, your ears and your wrists.

Jun 21, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: Industry groups line up against tech antitrust bills

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thirteen tech and free-market groups oppose new bipartisan antitrust bills from the House Judiciary committee, the groups write in a letter Monday, exclusively shared with Axios.

Why it matters: The pushback shows that the industry is gearing up for a fight against the 5 proposed new laws.

Updated 23 mins ago - Health

CDC: Vaccinated people in COVID hotspots should resume wearing masks

CDC director Rochelle Walensky and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci at a Senate HELP committee hearing. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on Tuesday recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with substantial to high transmission, among other circumstances.

Why it matters: The guidance, a reversal from recommendations made two months ago, comes as the Delta variant continues to drive up case rates across the country. Millions of people in the U.S. — either by choice or who are ineligible — remain unvaccinated and at risk of serious infection.