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FTC Hints at Google Antitrust Case

Four top decision-makers at Federal Trade Commission (FTC) say they may have a possible antitrust case against Google Inc., the world’s largest search engine, according to recent report from Reuters.

As stated in Reuters, members of the FTC believe Google has “illegally used its dominance of the search market to hurt its rivals.”

Though the article notes that one commissioner remains “skeptical,” the others say they’re “convinced after more than a year of investigation.”

However, when Google representatives were asked about the possible suit, spokesperson Niki Fenwick said: “We are happy to answer any questions that regulators have about our business.” The FTC declined to comment, as reported by Reuters.

In addition, Reuters referenced a congressional hearing that took place in September 2011 where Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel: “May I simply say that I can assure you we’ve not cooked anything.”

While Google denies any abuse on their part, big companies such as consumer reviews website Yelp and comparison shopping website Nextag have stated otherwise by voicing their complaints during an open hearing in Congress.

Through the complaints the consensus is that Google has unfairly given other web sites “low quality rankings in search results to steer Internet users away from their websites and toward Google products that provide similar services.”

In addition, a Reuters’ source said that because of the low rankings, websites are forced to “buy more ads on Google to improve their visibility.”

In related news, the FTC is not the only one with their suspicions. On Tuesday, it was reported that the European Commission released a warning to Google: Either clarify and modify your global privacy or “risk fines and other penalties by early next year,” as reported by The New York Times.

According to The Guardian, the report issued by the European Commission will “consider Google’s asserted right to expand its data mining to combine users’ personal data across all their accounts and services, including Gmail, Internet searching, map and location information, and photo sharing, with no way for individuals to opt out.”

Meanwhile, various reports say the Tuesday warning to Larry Page, chief executive of Google, wasn’t the first. However, Google told The New York Times that it was “reviewing the letter and an accompanying report from the data-protection authorities.”

“Our new privacy policy demonstrates our longstanding commitment to protecting our users’ information and creating great products,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said in a statement.

However, regardless of Google’s statement, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, chairwoman of the French data-protection authority, said she would give the search engine company “three to four months” to make a change, or else they will take legal action.

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