Google Accused of Suppressing Search Results and Stealing Content

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leading to “real harm to consumers”, and illegally taking content from Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon, a previously unpublished Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report has revealed.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

MICA, the Smart Bracelet Engineered by Intel, Aimed at Women

This is MICA, the latest style accessory for women: a bracelet, with snakeskin strap, encrusted with gemstones… and a touchscreen console, capable of receiving Facebook, Google, and Yelp notifications on the go. Wearable devices just became a lot more fashion-conscious.

MICA – an acronym for My Intelligent Communication Accessory – has been developed by Intel, in conjunction with US designer fashion label Opening Ceremony. The device allows the user to construct their own VIP list for notifications, so only those deemed important enough are beamed through to your MICA. The vibrates, with no audio chime, whenever a notification is passed to the device. It can be charged wirelessly, using Intel’s charging bowl.

At the very exclusive price of $495, MICA will be available from Opening Ceremony stores in New York and Los Angeles, and online at Barneys.com, by the start of December.

Souce: TNW

California Bans Retailers Fining Customers for Bad Reviews

Remember the “Hotel from hell” that was previously charging people a $500 fee for every bad review left on their Yelp page? Apparently this billing issue was more widespread than originally thought.

The head honcho’s in California decided to move on this worrying action, and thus, they’ve passed a law which prevents online retailers charging fines for negative reviews left about their services.

Thanks to CNet, we learned about the law in full:

“Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday, AB 2365 outlaws so-called “non-disparagement clauses” from contracts that require customers waive their right to express a negative opinion the service they received. Businesses violating the new law face fines of $2,500 for the first violation and $5,000 for each subsequent violation. An additional fine of $10,000 will be imposed on violations deemed willful, intentional, or reckless.”

In an even more relevant case, this law was said to be brought upon thanks to a Utah couple whom were left with a bad credit rating after being billed $3,500 for leaving a negative review about their retailer, as claimed by the bill’s sponsor – Assemblyman John A. Pérez.

In total, this law seems like a fairly logical progression for freedom of (online) speech and something that should quite possibly be widespread. Have you ever been billed for saying something negative online by a service or product provider? Let us know and we may cover it.

Image courtesy of Flickreviver

Bad Hotel Reviews Attract $500 Fee

Have you ever posted a negative review of service on Yelp or other public review sites? If your host had their function at Union Street Guest House, you might be doing them a great disservice.

Located in Hudson NY, this guest house has been said to charge $500 USD for negative reviews left on their website – the money for which comes out of the wedding couples deposit.

“Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not,” reads an online policy. “If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event . . . and given us a deposit of any kind . . . there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review . . . placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.” Page Six

Not only will they keep the $500 if the couple themselves leave a negative review, but if any of the guests do so you’re also in trouble. If the review is deleted, your deposit is fully refunded.

Since this information has come to light, people are quite outraged and many have started leaving negative reviews on the companies Yelp page, with one politely stating:

Just want to keep flushing down their ratings in toilet.

Booooooooooo” Valenz L. on Yelp

Unfortunately, we have been unable to find any official statement from the guest house regarding this issue.

Have you been a victim to a similar story? Let us know.

Image courtesy of Union Street Guest House