FTC may pursue Google

The Federal Trade Commission may be on the verge of launching a major antitrust case against the search and advertising giant. According to a Reuters story based on unnamed sources, three of the five commissioners have concluded that the FTC's year-long investigation warrants serious action. In this case, the major focus of the antitrust case centers on Google's alleged practice of steering search results towards its own products and services. Said Reuters:

"Google rivals specializing in travel, shopping and entertainment have accused Google, the world's No. 1 search engine, of unfairly giving their web sites low quality rankings in search results to steer Internet users away from their websites and toward Google products that provide similar services."

Two competitive firms - Yelp and Nextag - testified in Congress about Google's practices, but Google denied any wrong doing and so the matter has stood - at least in the U.S. In Europe, both the EU and individual countries have brought cases against Google.

In addition to misuse of rankings, Google has been accused of trying to stifle search engine competitors. One source told Reuters that commissioners looked into "complaints that Google refuses to share data that would allow advertisers and developers to create software to compare the value they get on Google to advertising spending on Microsoft's Bing or Yahoo."

The FTC has pursued Google in the recent past, forcing it to pay "$22.5 million to settle charges it bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple Inc.'s Safari browser." But for a company with revenues of over $43 billion, such fines do little to deter.

The scope and depth of the rumored FTC case will only be known if, and when, it's announced But it appears that the federal government may finally be taking action  against the world's biggest search engine.

Exclusive: FTC moving closer to Google antitrust case - sources (Reuters, Oct. 12, 2012)