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FTC to hit Google with antitrust probe, report says

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The US Federal Trade Commission is reportedly preparing to serve Google with subpoenas related to a broad antitrust investigation. People familiar with the matter tell the Wall Street Journal that the FTC probe seeks to discover whether Google has abused its dominance online.

The Google investigation represents the most serious move by the FTC against Mountain View, California-based company. Prior FTC activity related to Google has centered around the company’s mergers and acquisitions of other companies.

Neither Google nor the FTC have yet agreed to comment on the investigation.

The FTC’s probe will center on Google’s advertising business, which remains the primary revenue generator for the company. Google searches currently account for roughly two-thirds of all search activity that takes place online. The FTC seeks to discover whether Google is unfairly funneling Internet users to search results for companies it owns.

Google is currently under investigation in the European Union for a range of antitrust activity. Ironically, one of the companies that have sued Google for antitrust activities in the EU is Microsoft, once the technology world’s most notorious antitrust villain. Microsoft’s action follows similar lawsuits filed by organizations from the UK, France and Germany. Google is also under investigation for anticompetitive practices by the state of Texas.

On top of all this, the US Senate is reportedly adding heat to a separate, ongoing antitrust investigation into Google. According to CNet, a Senate subcommittee is threatening to subpoena Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to question them on their company’s practices. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said he has so far been “very disappointed” in Google’s reluctance to send an executive to appear before the subcommittee. A Google spokesperson told CNet today that it  “will send an executive who can best answer their questions.”

Experts say that an FTC probe could tie up Google in legal battles for years to come.

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