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FTC ends long Google probe with mild reprimand

posted 3 Jan 2013, 13:23 by Mpelembe   [ updated 3 Jan 2013, 13:23 ]

The Federal Trade Commission announces that Google has agreed to end the practice of using reviews and similar data from rivals for its own products, and will allow advertisers to export data to independently evaluate ad campaigns.

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (JANUARY 3, 2013) (REUTERS) - U.S. regulators on Thursday (January 3) closed a long-running investigation of Google with a relatively mild agreement that is likely to disappoint rivals and critics of the Web search giant.

Under the agreement, Google agreed to end the practice of "scraping" reviews and other data from rivals' websites for its own products, and to allow advertisers to export data to independently evaluate advertising campaigns, the Federal Trade Commission said.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said Google also agreed to license standard patents on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms."

At a news conference, Leibowitz said that the Commission had scoured through some 9 million pages of documents and taken sworn testimony from key Google executives on the way to resolving its investigation in a "sensible" fashion.

"There are two aspects to the settlements we announced today. The first involves Google's misuse of patent protection to prevent competition. We stopped that abuse. The second concerns allegations that Google unfairly biases its search results to harm competition. We closed this investigation finding that the evidence does not support the claim that Google's prominent display of its own content on its general search page was undertaken without legitimate justification," he said.

The FTC defended the itself from likely criticism that it had gone too soft on Google.

"Many of Google's critics including its competitors wanted the Commission to go further in this investigation and regulate the intricacies of Google search engine algorithm. The Commission exhaustively investigated allegations that Google unfairly manipulated it'ssearch engine results to harm its competitors -- a practice that most of us refer to as search bias and today the commission has voted to close the investigation unanimously," Leibowitz said.

Reuters reported in December that Google's critics, anticipating a weak conclusion to the FTC's investigation, may be ready to take their grievances to the Justice Department.