FTC’s Google search = 3 results (in 50 million seconds)
On 3 January 2013, the US Federal Trade Commission announced that it has closed its investigation into Google after an “exhaustive” 19 month review.
The FTC’s investigation initially focused on Google’s core search product, with allegations that Google biased its search results to disadvantage other websites. Despite its investigation covering millions of pages of documents and many hours of testimony, the FTC noted in its announcement that “the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission”. It found that the changes Google had made to its search algorithms were largely made to benefit consumers.
The FTC did obtain 3 voluntary commitments from Google, addressing some of its business practices, but these commitments relate to Google’s secondary products.
1. Google will not seek injunctions to block rivals from using standard essential patents. In 2012, Google acquired Motorola Mobility and its accompanying patent portfolio. That portfolio contained hundreds of patents essential to industry standards used in devices such as smartphones and tablets. To avoid patent “hold-up”, tech companies are required to license these standard essential patents on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms.
2. Google will remove restrictions on the use of its online search advertising platform. Previously, advertisers were able to export their ad campaigns from Google AdWords but there were difficulties in advertisers coordinating ads on rival search platforms, such as Bing and Facebook. Now, Google will provide an application programming interface to advertisers allowing coordination to occur.
3. Google will give websites the ability to “opt out” of display on sites such as Google Places and Google Shopping. Websites already have the ability to “opt out” of being displayed in Google search results. Now, websites will also be able to “opt out” of being displayed in associated websites such as Google Places and Google Shopping.
While the FTC’s announcement is significant, Google is still defending litigation in numerous jurisdictions. To see our previous post on this issue, see here.