Google has been accused of manipulating its search results to promote its own services, to the detriment of other businesses, leading to “real harm to consumers”, and illegally taking content from Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon, a previously unpublished Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report has revealed.
The FTC ended its investigation into Google back in 2012 after the internet giant agreed to concessions, but the investigation’s documents were accidentally handed to The Wall Street Journal, which the newspaper subsequently published. The report claims that Google’s “conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets”.
Yelp, Microsoft’s Bing, and travel websites TripAdvisor and Expedia all complained to the FTC that Google had damaged its business by suppressing its search results, and the FTC found that Google had been scraping data from Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon and used it to rank products while recycling reviews and ratings.
Kent Walker, Google’s General Counsel, responded by reminding that the FTC decided that no action should be taken against Google over its findings, saying, “Speculation about potential consumer harm turned out to be entirely wrong. Since the investigation closed two years ago, the ways people access information online have only increased, giving consumers more choice than ever before.”
But David Wood, legal counsel to ICOMP, a coalition of online firms campaigning against Google, argues that business has trumped the rule of law, saying, “These revelations demonstrate that this is not about national interests but about competition problems. It is a fascinating insight into Google’s practices. It’s made public things they didn’t want made public and highlighted discrepancies between what they said in public and what they actually did in the US.”
Source: The Guardian