In the wake of yesterday’s leaked FTC report indicating that Google threatened web sites with removal from its search engine if they didn’t let Google use their content, the backlash against Google is rising again.
A few years ago, Google faced a lot of criticism, for everything from letting some of its Street View cars collect people’s Wi-Fi data, to showing ads from Canadian pharmacies who violated US laws.
But the criticism seemed to have died down in the year or so.
Now, a consumer advocacy group in the US in calling on the Federal Trade Comission (FTC) to reopen its investigation into Google, while at least one lawmaker in Europe is calling for a crackdown on its practices.
At the heart of the matter is the internal FTC report’s finding that Google was effectively blackmailing competing sites like Yelp and Amazon into using their data in its own search result. If they didn’t agree, they would get blacklisted from search results entirely.
The report recommended that the FTC file charges, but instead Google underwent some voluntary changes and the investigation was closed.
In the European Union, however, investigations into Google’s allegedly anticompetitive practices are still going on. Outtspoken Google critic and European Parliament member Ramon Tremosa i Balcells has used the report as ammunition in his fight for the European Union to take a strong stand against the search giant.
Some have criticised the EU’s scrutiny of Google as kneejerk reactionism against a successful American company invading European territory. The fact that the FTC could have, but didn’t, file charges, show that the issues are serious and that it’s not a “protectionist E.U. war against a U.S. company,” said Tremosa, according to a New York Times report.
Meanwhile, Consumer Watchdog, a California-based advocacy group, says that the report’s findings indicate that it’s time for the US Senate Antitrust Committee to reopen an investigation and figure out exactly how Google escaped prosecution.
“It is unfathomable that the FTC declined to sue the Internet giant, in the face of pervasive and persuasive evidence from its expert staff. The only way the FTC can redeem itself and regain public trust is to re-open the case. Indeed, Google’s anticompetitive and abusive practices of favouring its own services in search results continue,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, in a press release.
Google continues to insist on its innocence, while the FTC stands by its decision not to press charges.
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