Google hits back in FTC antitrust probe

June 27th, 2011 by Staff – Google has confirmed that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has begun a “review of our business”, and presented a robust defence of its practices.

Writing on the Google Blog in a post entitled “Supporting choice, ensuring economic opportunity”, the company’s Amit Singhal said that “At Google, we’ve always focused on putting the user first. We’re committed to giving you choices, ensuring that businesses can grow and create jobs, and, ultimately, fostering an Internet that benefits us all”.

He claimed that “it’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are, but we’re clear about where we stand. Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow”.

The FTC is investigating suggestions that Google’s search algorithm favours the company’s own sites over its rivals. A similar investigation is also taking place in Europe.

“Using Google is a choice—and there are lots of other choices available to you for getting information: other general-interest search engines, specialized search engines, direct navigation to websites, mobile applications, social networks, and more,” Singhal claimed.

In a robust defence of the company’s practises, he added that “[Google] will continue to follow the principles that have guided us from the beginning”. He said that these included adjusting the search algorithm to improve user experience, and sharing information about how the site works. “We want you to stay with us because we’re innovating and making our products better—not because you’re locked in,” said Singhal. “Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results.”

The case has clear echoes of antitrust probes into Microsoft in the Nineties, which saw the company pay millions of pounds in fines and prevented from apparent plans to dominate huge swathes of the IT sector. Google, however, will benefit from changed laws, and from the difficulty of proving that Google abused its powerful position, rather than simply providing a service that millions of businesses and consumers choose to use every day.

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