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Google personal search could be anticompetitive

Electronic Privacy Information Center invokes FTC over closed shop results
Thu Jan 12 2012, 15:54

INTERNET SEARCH GIANT Google continues to attract criticism of its personal search feature that throws up results from its Google+ social networking service but ignores others.

Google announced the changes earlier this month and almost instantly earned itself the wrath of Twitter, which said that it was keeping news and opportunities away from users by ignoring the chatter on its web pages. The feature also ignores Facebook pages, which might affect internet users that like to visit that web site.

Twitter's general counsel Alex Macgillivray, who used to work at Google, expressed his dismay in a short message, while the firm followed that up with longer criticisms.

"For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet," said the company in its statement.

"We're concerned that as a result of Google's changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that's bad for people, publishers, news organisations and Twitter users."

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is also concerned and in a note on its web site said that this is the sort of thing that had prompted it to call for an FTC investigation.

"Google's changes come at a time when the company is facing increased scrutiny over whether it distorts search results by giving preference to its own content," it said, as it recalled how the FTC had been compelled to look at how the search firm might be giving preferential treatment to its own content.

"Recently, the Senate held a hearing on Google's use of its dominance in the search market to suppress competition, and EPIC urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google's use of Youtube search rankings to give preferential treatment to its own video content over non-Google content," EPIC added.

"Google has also acknowledged that the FTC is investigating whether Google uses its dominance in the search field to inhibit competition in other areas." µ


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