This spring, news broke that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission might subject Google to a broad antitrust investigation related to its search dominance. Six weeks ago, the FTC, in conjunction with several state attorneys general, served Google with broad subpoenas. Now, as The Wall Street Journal reports, antitrust regulators are focusing their investigation on key areas of Google's business, including Android and Web-search related services.
The question is whether Google prevents smartphone manufacturers that use mobile operating system from using competitors' services, sources tell WSJ. "That sounds related to allegations made by Skyhook Wireless, which has sued Google, alleging that handset makers must use Google's location services if they want to include the Android Market on their phones," notes Computerworld.
"Google's control over Android, given the operating system's now dominant share of the smartphone market, could be a problem for Mountain View," Search Engine Land writes. "They also have inquired whether Google grants preferential placement on its website to its own products, such as Google's ‘Places' business listings, its ‘Shopping results; and Google Finance services above most other results," WSJ adds.
The FTC is also reportedly looking into allegations that Google unfairly takes information collected by rivals, such as reviews of local businesses, to use on its own specialized site and then demotes the rivals' services in its search results, the people said.
"Google has denied breaking antitrust laws or engaging in unfair business practices," a Google spokeswoman tell CNet. "We understand that with success comes scrutiny," the Google spokeswoman said, adding, "We're happy to answer any questions (the government has) about our business."
"With that statement comes the ultimate question -- how much of what Google is doing is truly unfair versus simply expected from any business?" The Next Web's Brad McCarty asks. "I've argued in the past that antitrust in the case of search simply doesn't make sense as nobody is forced to use Google to find the information that they want. The vast majority of the world just chooses to."