Google Violates Court Order in Epic Antitrust Case by Not Saving Chat Evidence

Google Violates Court Order in Epic Antitrust Case by Not Saving Chat Evidence

According to Bloomberg and CNBC, a federal judge ruled that Google violated a court order requiring it to preserve employee chat messages relevant to Epic’s antitrust case. According to US District Judge James Donato in San Francisco, the tech giant “adopted a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy for keeping messages, at the expense of its preservation duties,” and must be held accountable for its actions. Donato has yet to decide what sanctions and penalties Google should face, but he has ordered the company to pay Epic’s legal fees in connection with this particular issue.

Donato stated in his decision that Google gave nearly 360 employees complete discretion over whether or not to keep chat histories. The Department of Justice explained in a separate filing over the same complaint that the tech giant’s internal chatroom, which is used to discuss “substantive and sensitive business,” is set to delete chat messages within 24 hours by default. When the agency “reasonably anticipated [the] litigation” in 2019, it expected Google to change its chat history setting, but it allegedly left the decision to individual employees.

Epic Games recently submitted exhibits to support its case, demonstrating how Google employees tend to turn off chat history. Google CEO Sundar Pichai allegedly wrote in 2021, “…also can we change the setting of this group to history off.” According to the filing, he attempted to delete that message a few seconds later. Google employees are also said to turn off chat histories when discussing topics such as revenue sharing and mobile app distribution agreements, as well as a project involving changing Google Play commission rates.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the company has worked with Epic and investigators for years and has turned over millions of documents: “For years, our teams have worked diligently to respond to Epic and state AGs’ discovery requests, producing over three million documents, including thousands of chats. We will continue to demonstrate to the court how Android and Google Play incorporate choice, security, and openness “They stated.

The judge will hold additional hearings to finalise the sanctions that Google must face. Donato stated that he would like to see the evidence available “at the end of fact discovery,” so that Epic can “tell the Court what might have been lost in the Chat communications.”

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