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FTC reportedly adding Google+ to antitrust investigation amid search controversy

post #1 of 24
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In the wake of a recent controversy surrounding Google's decision to feature Google+ content in its search results, the company will face scrutiny of its social networking service from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as part of an antitrust probe, a new report claims.

Two people familiar with the situation have alerted Bloomberg to the federal agency's plan to include Google+ in the investigation. At issue is the possibility that Google violated antitrust laws if it gave preference to its own services on its search engine, the sources said.

The alleged expansion to the FTC's probe comes on the same week that Google attracted harsh criticism for its new "Search, plus Your World" feature. The Mountain View, Calif., company announced on Tuesday that it would begin including personalized results tailored to users' Google+ profiles and serving up "related people and pages" from its Google+ service.

The changes were met with widespread disapproval after it was revealed that empty Google+ pages were displacing apparently more relevant results from rivals Facebook and Twitter. Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan published a series of posts detailing the changes and possible implications.

Twitter quickly spoke up in opposition to the changes, claiming that the new results are "bad for people, publishers, news organizations" and its own users.

Google fired back on Google+ that it was "surprised" by Twitter's comments because the company chose not to renew its agreement with the search giant. However, some pundits have suggested that the agreement between Twitter and Google broke up because of differences over money.

“We believe that our improvements to search will benefit consumers,” Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich told Bloomberg over email. “The laws are designed to help consumers benefit from innovation, not to help competitors.”

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said earlier this week that he doesn't believe Google is favoring itself by suggesting Google+ pages. He also indicated that he was willing to talk to Facebook and Twitter about including them in the results.

Meanwhile, some groups, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center have begun calling for the FTC to look into Google' s changes and "business practices," the report noted.

Google confirmed last June that the FTC was conducting a review of its business and stated it would work with them to answer its questions. Sources have claimed that the FTC is looking into whether Google is preventing smartphone manufacturers from using competitors' services on its Android operating system and allegations that it down-ranked rival websites while harvesting their data.

The company has also been on the hot seat recently over several troubling violations of its own informal "Don't be evil" motto. Earlier this month, it came to light that some blog posts that claimed to be "sponsored by Google" were violating the company's own guidelines against paid links. Google quickly disavowed the links as a mistake made by bloggers working with third-party advertising firm Unruly Media, which had been hired by Google to promote its Chrome browser. The company then punished itself by down-ranking its Chrome website for at least 60 days.

More recently, Kenyan business listings company Mocality released evidence that Google appeared to have been "systematically accessing Mocality’s database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners." Recordings revealed Google representatives falsely claiming to have partnered with Mocality.

Google quickly responded that it was "mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented [its] relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites." The company "unreservedly apologized" to Mocality and promised to take the "appropriate action with the people involved" after looking into the mater.
post #2 of 24
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Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Google quickly responded that it was "mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented [its] relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites."



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post #3 of 24
The FTC needs to investigate the purchase of Motorola by Google before this.

Considering the fact that Motorola makes the majority of home cable boxes and consumers have no choice in their cable box selection, consumers will soon be forced to have a box calling home to Google reporting television viewing habits with no other viable options.
post #4 of 24
As a developer I have noticed that where Apple and Android utilise similar technology or similar terminology for example (bad example but plucking one off the top of my head) 'WebView'. Relevant Apple results seem to be consistently off the first page of results nowadays, despite having a larger developer base.
post #5 of 24
Maybe Google has added "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission" to the well known "Don't be evil" motto.
post #6 of 24
Never Liked Google. Just Hope they lose out a few battles to shut them up.
post #7 of 24
I think that it is a novel idea to try to use G+ to great a kind of genius for search etc.

BUT it should be something I can turn on if I want to use it. Both for including my G+ in the searching and to see it in my results. Just like I should be able to turn off having 'featured' ads (i.e. advertisements from companies that have paid to be a part of Adsense) in my results and so on.

And make the options by default off. So the users have to pick to see it rather than have it shoved on them. That would probably kill some of this AntiT talk
post #8 of 24
No one should be surprised about the Mocality scandal, it's entirely consistent with Google's character, or lack thereof. It's time for everyone to pull their heads out of the sand and realize that Google is an utterly ruthless company, run by utterly ruthless people, that will do anything in it's quest to control access to all information. Stop believing the lies about, "Don't be evil," and "open". This is who Google really are.
post #9 of 24
Little off topic, but I thought it was hilarious that when using Youtube lately, there's always a Galaxy Nexus video (or sometimes even ICS videos) at the very top of the suggested videos in the right column.

Yeah, Google doesn't use its monopoly as a search engine to promote its own products. Not at all. And as mentioned by monstrosity earlier, there are clear differences in what Google returns for results when dealing with items shared between Android and iOS (for example).

Which I'm sure some people will say is fine since it's "Google's company and Google's own search engine - they should be allowed to do with it what they wish".

That would be OK if Google put some kind of disclaimer on their page stating so. People assume that Google is 100% fair in its search results, which is why it became so popular (also the fact that it's very accurate). I wonder what people would think if they found out Google "re-arranges" search results as they see fit instead of giving the user "a pure unfiltered search result".

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post #10 of 24
Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with Windows to crush Netscape.
Google is now distorting their search results with Google+ content to crush Facebook.
Same thing.

(Oh, and by the way, the Microsoft bundling trick was found to be a monopolistic and illegal business practice.)

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post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with Windows to crush Netscape.
Google is now distorting their search results with Google+ content to crush Facebook.
Same thing.

(Oh, and by the way, the Microsoft bundling trick was found to be a monopolistic and illegal business practice.)

Mark Zuckerberg as the victim... strange days...
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post #12 of 24
Pretty sure this is harder to find on youtube than if googles 'standard' algorithm was allowed to do it's thing http://www.twitvid.com/R0ZGK
post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

Pretty sure this is harder to find on youtube than if googles 'standard' algorithm was allowed to do it's thing http://www.twitvid.com/R0ZGK

Sixth result on Google search and maybe 10th on YouTube using the terms "Google ice cream can't

The Google search link was the same you posted the YouTube one was the same but its title wasn't the same.
post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Just like I should be able to turn off having 'featured' ads (i.e. advertisements from companies that have paid to be a part of Adsense) in my results and so on.

And make the options by default off. So the users have to pick to see it rather than have it shoved on them. That would probably kill some of this AntiT talk

Would you be willing to pay to use the service if the ads didn't show?

It seems fair, if you want to get results for no charge, then the site is monetized through ads.
post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by ltcompuser View Post

Would you be willing to pay to use the service if the ads didn't show?

It seems fair, if you want to get results for no charge, then the site is monetized through ads.

Being monetized through ads is fine, favoring higher paying advertisers or their own business partners at the exclusion of others from the search results should be a no-no.
post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

Which I'm sure some people will say is fine since it's "Google's company and Google's own search engine - they should be allowed to do with it what they wish".

Agreed. It's not illegal to own a monopoly, but it is illegal to use that monopoly to leverage into something else. This is what Google is now running into time and time again, and what the FTC are investigating it over.
post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with Windows to crush Netscape.
Google is now distorting their search results with Google+ content to crush Facebook.
Same thing.

(Oh, and by the way, the Microsoft bundling trick was found to be a monopolistic and illegal business practice.)

The difference here is that Facebook is limiting Google search from getting the full results from Facebook, while Netscape was dying to make Windows include Netscape as a browser.
post #18 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by drobforever View Post

The difference here is that Facebook is limiting Google search from getting the full results from Facebook, while Netscape was dying to make Windows include Netscape as a browser.

Not really. Google are pushing G+ in front of users by use of the search engine.

Exactly the same way that they removed Michelin maps and replaced it with their own service, same with stock quotes, type in AMZN and see who the top listed service is. Type in "checkout" for instance and you would think it's a crap shoot as to who is top - except its Google Checkout....did it really score the best in Pagerank? Surely Ebay or Amazon would have the highest use of the term.

The other issue is that say you try and buy the term "checkout" on Adwords - who are you bidding against? If you bid against a Google sponsored term, eg Android, are Google billing themselves? So how does your term get valued if you are bidding against a competing Google service?
post #19 of 24
If Google thinks they are going to get any traction with the FTC by claiming that their business practices are "good for consumers" then they are being ill advised. Antitrust laws are not about consumers, they are about competitors.
Please don't be insane.
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post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

If Google thinks they are going to get any traction with the FTC by claiming that their business practices are "good for consumers" then they are being ill advised. Antitrust laws are not about consumers, they are about competitors.

Excellent observation.

As ATT, Kodak, IBM and Microsoft all learned....
post #21 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patranus View Post

The FTC needs to investigate the purchase of Motorola by Google before this.

Considering the fact that Motorola makes the majority of home cable boxes and consumers have no choice in their cable box selection, consumers will soon be forced to have a box calling home to Google reporting television viewing habits with no other viable options.

I think that is the part of Motorola that Google didn't buy, but if it was you are 100% correct. Google cannot be trusted.
post #22 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

Pretty sure this is harder to find on youtube than if googles 'standard' algorithm was allowed to do it's thing http://www.twitvid.com/R0ZGK

Brilliant! Thanks for the laugh!
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post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by F1Ferrari View Post

Being monetized through ads is fine, favoring higher paying advertisers or their own business partners at the exclusion of others from the search results should be a no-no.

I agree. My post was directed to the person that wanted to get search results with NO ads appearing. Since that's where Google makes most of their money, that's not going to happen.
post #24 of 24
...so I don't have to even open the page. Did anyone really not see this coming from a mile away? It was the next logical step. I don't see what the complaining is about I am really looking forward to a strong competitor to Facebook.
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