The Federal Trade Commission has increased its scrutiny of Google, delving into specific aspects of the company’s business — namely Android and search services — as part of an ongoing antitrust investigation.
The FTC’s lawyers want to know whether or not Google has strong-armed Android-based smartphone manufacturers into exclusively using its products. Additionally, regulators are investigating if Google is biased in its placement of Google services within Google search results. Finally, the FTC is following up on claims that Google swipes info curated by its competitors (restaurant reviews, map data, etc.) to use in its own services, while still bumping competitors down in search results.
The FTC first served Google with a whole gaggle of subpoenas in June. Google initially claimed that the subpoenas carved such a broad swath in the company’s business that it didn’t ever really know what the FTC was looking for. But Android aside, it’s become readily apparent that the FTC is aiming its investigatory guns right at Google’s heart: its search business.
In one instance given by the Wall Street Journal, the FTC has discussed Google’s review aggregation with Yelp and TripAdvisor. Google’s Places service, which offers business listings and customer reviews, includes reviews from the aforementioned sites and others. Google claims it was aggregating searchable content, while those sites allege what Google did was theft. In a possible preemptive move, Google recently removed the clips of aggregated reviews it had previously used in Places.
The FTC is only in its earliest stages as investigators have to learn the business first before they can start questioning further and making judgements. However, with the European Commission also investigating Google, not to mention the ongoing Android patent war, Google looks to be embroiled in legal issues for the foreseeable future.
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