FTC: Google Received No Favors During Investigation - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
IT Leadership // Digital Business
News
3/26/2015
10:05 AM
100%
0%

FTC: Google Received No Favors During Investigation

The FTC is pushing back against reports that it gave Google favorable treatment due to the search engine giant's lobbying prowess. Google is also facing more scrutiny in Europe.

8 Google Projects To Watch in 2015
8 Google Projects To Watch in 2015
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is defending the agency's decision to investigate search engine giant Google, but officials are also saying that they regret making some information regarding the investigation public.

In a March 25 statement by three commissioners, including Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioners Maureen Ohlhausen and Julie Brill, the FTC noted it had conducted an exhaustive investigation of Google’s Internet search practices during 2011 and 2012.

The FTC’s statement drew attention to an article published in The Wall Street Journal, which suggested the organization’s investigation was halted due to Google’s lobbying prowess.  

"The article suggests that a series of disparate and unrelated meetings involving FTC officials and executive branch officials or Google representatives somehow affected the Commission’s decision to close the search investigation in early 2013," the statement read. "Not a single fact is offered to substantiate this misleading narrative. "

However, the FTC said it regretted the inadvertent disclosure of confidential documents and information in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, noting it takes seriously its obligation to maintain the confidentiality of information, and said it is taking additional steps to ensure that similar disclosures do not occur in the future.

The 160-page document contained pointed criticism of Google's search and advertising practices, which also accused the company of stealing content from Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, such as copying product reviews.

The US FTC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The US FTC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Despite the severity of the accusations, in the end the FTC concluded that Google’s search practices were not, "on balance, demonstrably anticompetitive."

In the statement, the FTC noted the decision was in line with the recommendations of the governing body’s Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Economics, and Office of General Counsel.

Google was under investigation by the FTC for two years, during which the company was forced to hand over millions of documents for review.

In January 2013, the FTC announced it had reached a voluntary agreement with Google to change some of its business practices, including ending some past practices that could stifle competition for consumer electronics devices like tablets, smartphones, and gaming consoles, as well as the market for online search advertising.

[Read about the FTC and IoT.]

In the FTC’s statement, Google also agreed "give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google's AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms; and to refrain from misappropriating online content from so-called 'vertical' Websites that focus on specific categories such as shopping or travel for use in its own vertical offerings."

The FTC’s latest statement comes as Google fights off an investigation by the European Union that it has abused its market dominance.

Europe's antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, has been investigating Google to uncover potential anticompetitive practices. Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquín Almunia, had proposed three settlements, but all were scuttled by opponents, including Microsoft and Oracle, who argued the deals didn’t go far enough. 

Earlier this month, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt met with Vestager, the first meeting between the two since she took office last November.

A month before the meeting, The Wall Street Journal conducted an interview with Vestager in which she said she had been "very impressed" with the arguments of Google’s opponents.

If found guilty of breaking EU regulations, Google could be fined up to 10% of its global revenue.

Attend Interop Las Vegas, the leading independent technology conference and expo series designed to inspire, inform, and connect the world's IT community. In 2015, look for all new programs, networking opportunities, and classes that will help you set your organization’s IT action plan. It happens April 27 to May 1. Register with Discount Code MPOIWK for $200 off Total Access & Conference Passes.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
batye
0%
100%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
4/2/2015 | 1:54:20 AM
Re: Naive, much?
@asksqn, I think this days it like free for all... for any gov. agency... in CANADA we have almost the same problems...
batye
0%
100%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
4/2/2015 | 1:51:54 AM
Re: FTC: Google Received No Favors During Investigation
@zerox203, same question here... how it gonna be played on the global scale...
tzubair
50%
50%
tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2015 | 1:29:57 AM
Re: Google bears skeptical watching
@Charlie: I think the fact that Google holds a dominant position is fairly true. But what can be done to counter this? Surely, you can't take away the monopoly that Google enjoys over the search market and the amount of data that is has that can lead it to monitor everything users do online.
asksqn
0%
100%
asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
3/28/2015 | 10:10:40 AM
Naive, much?
Because lobbyists hold absolutely no sway over federal agencies tasked with protecting consumers.  Someone really ought to issue a memo to the FTC reminding it of the continually revolving door and cozy relationship of lobbyists and board of directors appointed as heads of departments such as the FCC's Wheeler and the FDA's Hamburg.   
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/26/2015 | 7:22:10 PM
Google bears skeptical watching
Google is in a position of dominance and power in our economy and bears skeptical watching, as was done in the WSJ article yesterday. It is in a powerful position to influcence what advertising appears with what search results. Any organization that sends one lobbyst, Joanna Shelton, to the White House 60 times while under investigation -- that's one of many lobbyists holding meetings at the White House during the period -- bears watching.

 
zerox203
100%
0%
zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
3/26/2015 | 4:58:07 PM
Re: FTC: Google Received No Favors During Investigation
Thanks for the coverage on this, Nathan. No doubt tons of investigations like this from the FTC and other bodies are opening and closing on a daily basis, and if you don't have your ear pressed to the floor, it can be easy to miss the ones that might be of interest. Moreover, if you're not a lawyer, it can be hard to make sense of all of it. Taking this in aggregate I'm inclined to agree that Google is in the clear here. anti-competitive laws are notoriously hard to break, short of litterally running your competition out of town. This sounds more like a routine investigation into a company as huge as Google just to ensure everything is up to snuff, which is warranted. It sounded like they complied to all requests from the FTC, and turned over everything asked of them.

I'm also inclined to agree with calling out the WSJ on their narrative - it seems normal that a company as big as Google would routinely have a handful of meetings with Washington officials daily, let alone when they're being investigated, and it seems like an odd subject to single out for the all-too-rampant influence of lobbies in US politics. Looking at the more ominous sounding nature of the EU investigations, though, does highlight some of the differences between competition laws (which I'm no expert on) and public sentiment towards big companies in the US vs the EU. EU regulators are notably more strict on privacy laws and often require companies to hold on to information for shorter amounts of time or terminate consumer information upon consumers' request. It's not hard to see how this would translate to general distrust of Google. I wonder how this will all pan out globally.
Slideshows
IT Careers: 12 Job Skills in Demand for 2020
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  10/1/2019
Commentary
Enterprise Guide to Multi-Cloud Adoption
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  9/27/2019
Commentary
5 Ways CIOs Can Better Compete to Recruit Top Tech Talent
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  10/2/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Data Science and AI in the Fast Lane
This IT Trend Report will help you gain insight into how quickly and dramatically data science is influencing how enterprises are managed and where they will derive business success. Read the report today!
Slideshows
Flash Poll