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FTC Expands Its Google Antitrust Investigations 137

New submitter smithz writes "Bloomberg is reporting that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is expanding its antitrust probe of Google Inc. to include scrutiny of its new Google+ social networking service. Google this week introduced changes to its search engine so that results feature photos, news and comments from Google+. The changes sparked a backlash from bloggers, privacy groups and competitors who said the inclusion of Google+ results unfairly promotes the company's products over other information on the Web. Before expanding the probe, FTC was already investigating Google for giving preference to its own services in search results and whether that practice violates antitrust laws. The agency is also examining whether the company is using its control of the Android mobile operating system to discourage smartphone makers from using rivals' applications. Google is facing similar investigations in Europe and South Korea."
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FTC Expands Its Google Antitrust Investigations

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm a bit baffled by this sentence: "whether the company is using its control of the Android mobile operating system to discourage smartphone makers from using rivals' applications."

    What applications is being talked about here? I'm assuming with rivals means either MS/Apple, or maybe other search engines and e-mail hosting and so on, but none of that really makes sense. Don't they develop Android in cooperation with the Open Handset Alliance, which includes said smartphone makers? Or is Google requiring cer

    • It's especially strange since Apple explicitly forbids people from selling applications that duplicate the functionality of the built-in ones, and also has forced people to pay them for subscription sales. I think Google may be being punished for their anti-SOPA stance.
    • I believe it refers to the restrictions that manufacturers have to agree to in order to be allowed to use the Marketplace. I'm not sure of all the specifics, but the phones have to comply to a set of conditions otherwise they aren't allowed to participate in the Marketplace.

      I can't comment on the merit or lack thereof as I'm not really sure what precisely the issue there is. But I suspect it has to do with the defaults.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's see, Microsoft has bing search, upcoming arm tablets with windows 8, azzhure cloud, a lock on nearly 100% of the home PC market, a java clone named .net, proprietary lock-in document formats that are mandated throughout the US government (and most businesses), and the government is looking at google?

    Talk about incompetence. I guess the US is picking on the new kid because Microsoft sent them home crying after the abject failure of the Penfield / Kotar-Kelly solution to the Microsoft monopoly in the 20

    • by smithz ( 2552942 )
      What does Microsoft have to do with this? They are separate companies, they can investigate both if there's some issues. It's not an either Microsoft or Google situation.
      • Microsoft is one of the companies that pressured the FTC (and EU) to start this investigation. In some cases they used shell companies instead of complaining directly.

        • by smithz ( 2552942 )
          Microsoft isn't the only company. Yes, they're one of them because they also run advertising network and Google has been forbidding AdWords advertisers from running same ads on Microsoft's ad network. And there are also other companies who have complained to FTC and EU.
  • by NecroPuppy ( 222648 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @05:10PM (#38700512) Homepage

    It is three clicks to turn off this functionality.

    Seach settings, select to not use personalized search, and then save.

    Much more clear to use (or not use) than any change that Facebook ever made.

    • by smithz ( 2552942 )
      That might be true, but completely irrelevant. They're still promoting their other services over competitors and user changing from default settings has nothing to do with it.
      • I don't see how. Google Tweet Deck [] Both Apple and Google mobile markets show up in the search results. If twitter wasn't such a bitch about their site being crawled they would have updates on Google too. I can actually remember going to Google to use their realtime search because Twitter is such a shit site. But now twitter want's out of the realtime show on Google but they are saying it's unfair that Google has their own real time content providers. There are no "competitors" no companies want to tak

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They're still promoting their other services over competitors

        There's nothing wrong with promoting your services over competitors' services.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by bonch ( 38532 ) *

      Just like it was easy to use Netscape instead of Internet Explorer, or switch to Linux from Windows 98.

      • Sure, it was easy to switch to Linux from Win98.

        Except you pretty much had to pay for Win98 and IE before installing Linux and Netscape, because MS taxed OEMs for any non-Windows machines.

        Learn history, it's not something hidden [].

    • I think you forgot the biggest (first) step - creating a GMail account and logging in.

      Interestingly, my brother-in-law just bought a new phone (I don't even know what the heck model it is, but it runs Android). It would not let him sync to his Facebook contacts, he was required to create a GMail account to use the phone. Didn't sound like opting out was possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When they started defaulting their logged in users to https, they also hid the referrer from the subsequent page. They say this was for security, but in reality, it was an antitrust action forcing people to either use google analytics or use pay per click. I would like to see that on the agenda as well.

    • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @06:32PM (#38701174)
      Funny. Wikipedia [] seems to think that behavior is standard operating practice for HTTPS->non-https connections.

      If a website is accessed from a HTTP Secure (HTTPS) connection and a link points to anywhere except another secure location, then the referrer field is not sent.

  • Needs to buy some of the same government people Microsoft has.

  • That's ridiculous. It seems like these days successful is synonymous with monopoly. What is anti-competitive, exactly, about having a feature that requires someone to sign up?

    • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @05:53PM (#38700864)
      They haven'y bought government representatives like their competition (nor should they have to). I think they should move their company headquarters to Canada. It would make an excellent statement about the SOPA and other restrictions coming, as well as the state of the patent system in the US.
      • by bonch ( 38532 ) *

        Google doesn't need to buy government representatives--its executives already are the government representatives []. Eric Schmidt is a technology adviser to Obama, Google executive Sonal Shah led meetings on the transitory team, several ex-executives now work in the administration, and Marissa Meyer had Obama personally appear at her house during a fundraiser a week before the FTC dismissed its probe into the Street View scandal.

        But yeah, let's blame it all on a Microsoft conspiracy.

        • representative means congressmen. senators. these make the laws. and no, advisors dont mean shit - whatever the leashholder pays for, is legislated.

          google needed to buy representatives. meaning, congressmen or senators. none of these would happen. or sopa.
        • by fwoop ( 2553110 )
          And yet look at how far SOPA got. And look at the age of that article, and the fact that Obama hasn't been back since 2007, and you realize that now Google is perceived as a political liability, and is vastly outnumbered in Washington compared to the entertainment industry. Actually he came to the computer history museum last September just down the street from Google and he didn't go to Google. But he did visit Facebook last year. These days it's just cool to hate Google and being close to Google is polit
    • by bonch ( 38532 ) *

      That's ridiculous. It seems like these days successful is synonymous with monopoly. What is anti-competitive, exactly, about having a feature that requires someone to sign up?

      Every Microsoft supporter in 1998

  • FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 14, 2012 @05:41PM (#38700772)

    I would like to see the FTC members investigated for how many of them own Apple or Microsoft products or stock. These companies are desperate to destroy Google, who has done nothing wrong and is driving them out of business, and it wouldn't surprise me that they would stock the government with their fanboys and shills to accomplish this.

    Nobody is forced to use Google products or services, they choose to do so because of Google's superiority and innovativeness. These charge are absolutely baseless and I look forward to Google being vindicated. Hopefully they file a countersuit afterwards for libel and harassment.

    • For awhile I thought it was their cheeky attitude towards the uber patriotic SOPA and PIPA acts.

      Remember that ex MAFIAA lawyers are now packing the DOJ.

    • And people say there are Apple and Microsoft shills on Slashdot? That last paragraph reads like stock phrases from a marketing suit. "...Google's superiority and innovativeness...these charges are absolutely baseless and I look forward to Google being vindicated..." And it gets modded as Insightful!

      I use Google products too, but come on. Google is huge, and if they're overstepping their bounds, they should be investigated just like Microsoft was a decade ago.

      • For a headsup, the bonch [] account and Overly Critical Guy [] accounts are sockpuppets operated by the same organization. See this post [] and a previous post I've made here [] for evidence that these user accounts are used to push the same script, sometimes even copy/paste versions of it.

    • by Fri13 ( 963421 )

      "Hopefully they file a countersuit afterwards for libel and harassment."

      Google's motto is "Don't be Evil" and so on, Google would not do what you hope...

      As when someone does mistake, it is a mistake. If someone is stupid or greed and sue you because that... it is still not right to sue back from it, but to work harder to be a better one.

  • Really - ALL of the alleged accusations are practiced daily by other technology companies which have major shares - like ms, apple. Especially apple is almost fascist compared to what others can do with their handsets, including anyone using their software. microsoft even as of now pushes ie9, hotmail, msn through windows. they are even wanting to 'kill' ie6 - it does not matter whether you want it or not, for good or bad measure.

    This 'investigation' comes right at the time when sopa thing heated up, mai
  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @07:33PM (#38701686) Journal

    As I understand anti-trust laws, It can't just be because somebody happens to be dominant and they leverage that in another product. There has to be something where the consumer is practically speaking unable to choose because of said dominance.

  • Spin much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Demonoid-Penguin ( 1669014 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @08:30PM (#38702086) Homepage

    From the linked article:- Cecelia Prewett, an FTC spokeswoman, declined to comment on the widening of the agency’s investigation.

    I interpret that to read "declined to comment on *claimed* widening of the agency's investigation.

    I don't equate every investigation launched by the FTC as evidence of any wrongdoing - anymore than I equate a Department of Transport investigation into cars taking off from the lights all by themselves. They respond, by nature, to complaints. The complaints don't have to be valid.

    Hint: automotive industry in trouble - find Fiat guilty (of not catering to fat feet). Rinse and repeat the next time the native automotive industry loses sales to a foreign competitor.

  • Google offers many services that are very good, and are among the best available.
    They SHOULD be high in the rankings.

  • Normally I'd be totally with Google on this, but I believed they've whined about other "monopolies" where the monopoly only exists because people choose the product from among dozens of other alternatives. In other words a make believe monopoly.

    So instead of backing google, I'll go with a Nelson Munz "ha ha".

  • Personally I think this whole "Personalized Search" concept is stupid.

    Why the hell would I want to search 1-2 paragraph posts by the unwashed masses (including my own) instead of proper ARTICLES posted to the internet? The whole concept is asinine.

    What's next? Searching the insightful wisdom of 140 character tweets? *LOL*

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.