Update: The Shoe Drops: Google Receives Formal Notification Of Review By FTC

As expected, the Federal Trade Commission has begun its formal investigation of Google’s business practices. In a blog post today, Google fellow Amit Singhal wrote that the company yesterday received formal notification from the agency that it would be conducting an inquiry.

Though Singhal writes that “it’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are,” reports in recent days have pointed to Google’s core search advertising business as a concern. According to the Wall Street Journal, the investigators will look into whether Google somehow is unfairly dominating the sphere, at the expense of competition.

Google today filed a one-line disclosure with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which pegged “search and advertising” as the areas of FTC interest:

“On June 23, 2011, Google Inc. received a subpoena and a notice of civil investigative demand from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) relating to a review by the FTC of Google’s business practices, including search and advertising. Google is cooperating with the FTC on this investigation.”

The rest of Singhal’s blog post, while not illuminating anything about the investigation itself, provides some insight into Google’s likely defense against accusations of unfair dominance. The post — and an accompanying press section titled “Facts about Google and Competition” — lays out Google’s user focus and how hard it works to develop better products, implying that this, not unfair competition, is why Google dominates search.

We’ll have more on the FTC investigation in the next few days, so be sure to come back to Search Engine Land for more. In the meantime, for an overview of federal investigations of Google see Googleopoly: The Definitive Guide To Antitrust Investigations Against Google.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Legal: Regulation | Top News


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  • http://www.hotels-london.co.uk Michael Cropper

    The FTC must have read my blog post and got inspired ;-) http://mic.cx/l7TD6E

    It is very worrying how much of the market Google dominates, regardless of how good they are – there still needs to be more competition.

  • http://www.gamerstube.com Joe Youngblood

    bout dang time. i would like to see a law that keeps search engines / portals from running their own advertising networks. i think that would be a major help in competition for the internet.

  • http://www.gamerstube.com Joe Youngblood

    fyi. i own a video hosting website, competes loosely against youtube. our blog has been hosted on blogger since 2008. it was recently removed as ‘spam’ i posted asking for help, and got silence. i even tweeted matt cutts during SMX, he replied asking the domain, then against silence. the blog was a guide to users on how to use our websites features, updates, etc… we choose to go with a blog so we didnt send out as many emails because i know how annoying that gets. we had just made a major announcement on the blog before it was erased, thankfully i was able to pull the plug on the PR campaign pointing to the blog post.

    if that isn’t anti-competitive i dont know what is.

  • http://www.milwaukeemarketingservices.com cathydunham

    It’s amazing…. the people who whine “poor me” and are happy when Google gets under the magnifying glass – aren’t these the same people who suck at SEO? While most consumers use a search tool to google (er, find) information, it’s up to search engines (or search features in social media, youtube, etc) to deliver quality, relevant, current information to “their own” customers… Because Google delivers results well, they’re the top game in town. Granted it’s a big town, but online searching doesn’t stop at our borders. As for competition, compared to other search engines and search sites, it’s good to have such a role model – it makes others try harder…

    On the subject of “advertising within their own site” – well… Google is a business. For those who think the FTC is finally making the right move, then I guess you’ll also be rooting for the FTC to attack Facebook, Twitter, YouTube… NBC, ABC… Geez, let’s see who else promotes online ads on their own venues. duh!

  • http://europeforvisitors.com Durant Imboden

    This strikes me as being an economic-stimulus program for lawyers. At a time when the U.S. government depends on loans from countries like China to pay its bills, can the FTC really afford to go on a fishing expedition?

  • http://www.searchtactix.com Shane

    I really want this to be about Google, but IMHO, it’s not. Both Google and FB started with the same baseline, targeted youth as influencers and both through functionally, the same distribution network… Campuses.

    Interestingly enough, it is now Facebook that is challenging the online display advertising.

    Both made it ridiculously easy to spend money (revenue/advertising) and perhaps even easier to spend time (user experience).

    As much as I am search agnostic, and as much as I desperately want to see more “game” on the search competitive landscape, it comes down to three things… the search engine, the users and the advertising buyers. And more often than not, while the engine experience my differ from product to product the reality is users and advertisers (particularly from agency worlds), for the most part, stay away in droves, specifically when it comes to search.

  • TimmyTime

    Now that Danny Sullivan declared Google not guilty, being unbiased and all, FTC will probably drop the investigation ;)

    People forget that no one forced a person to buy Windows either, it matters what you do when you have the market share. So there goes Google’s case. I for one would love to know if Google favors its advertisers, even indirectly. Or why they decide to penalize certain types of sites.

    Either way Google needs to be broken up and Pandalized. To pandalize them FTC doesn’t need to give them a reason, or a way out, or do somethign that makes sense. You’re just Pandalized because we said so. if that causes you to lose your business, livelihood, savings, so what?

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