FTC gets serious about Google search and Android

Details are emerging of the Google antitrust case, with the Federal Trade Commission taking aim at the company’s web search services and Android operating system.

Sources close to the Wall Street Journal have revealed that the US antitrust regulator is homing in on areas to attack Google following subpoenas issued six weeks ago

The FTC is trying to narrow its focus on Google’s supposed wrongdoings, no mean feat considering the length of the firm’s alleged rap sheet. Indeed it’s thought that the inquiry could go on for around a year.

However the FTC is reportedly homing in on two main areas where Google may have crossed a line.

The investigations look at whether Google’s pushing its own products across its search, with Google Places business, Shopping results and Finance service all under the FTC’s magnifying glass.

This extends to the FTC also looking at allegations of Google taking information from rivals such as reviews of local businesses or restaurants, using them on its site, and then demoting the rival’s services in its search results.

Following the probe turning official in June, Google is rather nonplussed about the action it is facing, despite growing cases of antitrust across the globe.  And indeed a spokesperson has said that it is “happy to answer any questions” about its business.

This butter-wouldn’t-melt façade is unlikely to fool anyone who views Google as a snooping megalomaniac.  In the meantime Google has been allegedly covering its tracks by getting rid of some offending material on its site.

It’s said the firm attempted to hoodwink the FTC by removing previews of sites such as TripAdvisor, though we found out that it would take a lot more to take the heat off itself with the FTC investigation in full swing.

We can, most likely, expect this game of cat and mouse to continue for some time. Who’s the cat and who’s the mouse?

Apparently, sources have indicated that the FTC will be knocking on the doors of those who felt they have been bullied by Google, and will seek documents and evidence to help its investigation.  So there will be little room for Google to hide in the long run.

Google is also being hounded over concerns that the Android operating system is being used to muscle other firms out, putting pressure on manufacturers to keep to its own services.

One such example is that of Skyhook Wireless, which has been wagging its finger at Google over its location sensing technology.  It reckons that Google was bringing its considerable weight to bear on smartphone manufacturers to ditch its service in favour of Google’s own.

Furthermore, with Android becoming an ever more dominant force in the mobile OS market, there are questions being raised about the firm’s search engine ubiquity on handsets.