Daily Israel Report

US Gov't Probes New Google Search Service

The FTC is investigating whether Google is violating anti-trust laws by slanting preference to its new "search plus your world" service.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 1/15/2012, 12:22 PM

Google
Google
Israel news photo

The US government is investigating whether the mammoth Google Internet search engine is violating anti-trust laws slanting preference to its own services in its new "search plus your world" service. The service automatically injects posts and pictures from Google user accounts into the results when a term is searched. 

In addition, Google+  contacts and pages are more easily incorporated to any such search – but other, third-party services such as Facebook or Twitter are not.

According to reports from several U.S.-based news agencies, the Federal Trade Commission is probing whether Google is slanting its search preferences towards the Google+ items first. Such a move would break an agreement with the government to provide unbiased search results from other web services.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint on January 12 with the FTC, warning that the new Google service could violate user privacy. The service automatically brings up Google profiles, Google+ pages related to the search topic and even the user's Picasa photos, as well as those of their Google+ followers.

“Google's business practices raise concerns related to both competition and the implementation of the Commission's consent order,” EPIC said in a statement on its website on January 12. The organization also urged the government to investigate the firm's acquisition of YouTube.

By law, Google must obtain user consent before sharing information with third parties if the company alters any privacy agreements it made after collecting any user information.

Similar issues have been raised in the past on the Facebook social networking site, particularly when programmers upgrade the software with new, supposedly "better" services.  Periodic alerts can be seen on status notes by people who warn others where to go and what to check off in order to dodge the software's violations of privacy that are often designed to give an extra leg up to advertisers seeking new markets for their products.