Does Google Deserve These Federal Hassles?

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ftc_smallADOTAS – How European! After Microsoft formalized its complaints with European Commission about Google unfairly squeezing out search competition, two people “familiar with the matter” told Bloomberg that the Federal Trade Commission is considering an antitrust investigation of Google’s search business.

The FTC got a good look into Google’s operations last year before it finally accepted the company’s acquisition of mobile ad network AdMob. In addition, FTC Commissioner Thomas Rosch commented last week that he would get behind a probe into the “dominant players”

He didn’t name names, but did he need to?

The FTC is just waiting for the Justice Department to decide whether it will challenge the ITA Software acquisition, which they said might come soon. This (pretty paranoid) video from FairSearch.org — which includes Microsoft, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Kayak and Hotwire as charter members — explains the fear behind the ITA acquisition

Google Buys ITA – A Travel Story from FairSearch.org on Vimeo.

Basically airlines and online travel services are scared Google will manipulate travel search results to favored partners — the ones who pay to be high in Google’s search results. To stay competitive, everybody in the game would start shelling out to Google, and then airlines might be “forced” to raise fares to compensate.

Wouldn’t that be evil? But Google says they do no evil… So it just must be capitalism, silly!

However, supposedly most online travel services have their own proprietary systems and use ITA’s as an adjunct resource. Also there’s a lot of confusion about how much Google drives traffic to travel resources. With that in mind, the video seems a little lightweight, especially when considering the lobbying behind it.

An anti-trust investigation also seems pretty fluffy; it’s hard to argue Google has a search monopoly when Bing is powering 30% of all Internet searches. Is federal intervention really necessary in either case?

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