US Senator Orrin Hatch has written to the FTC requesting the body investigate whether it is using it dominant position in search and digital advertising to stifle the market place.
The Republican Senator, quite a frequent critic of the technology industry, is asking whether practises such as restricting competing advertising services to collecting data from users’ Gmail inbox are having a notable impact on the industry. The issue raised doesn’t seem to be about a single instance, but the collective impact of several smaller practices. A more wholistic investigation into Google’s business might well uncover some uncomfortable truths.
“Needless to say, I found these reports quite disturbing,” the Senator stated in the letter. “Although these reports concern different aspects of Google’s business, many relate to the company’s dominant position in search and accumulating vast amounts of personal data. That is why I also write to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to reconsider the competitive effect of Google’s conduct in search and digital advertising.”
Google is of course becoming quite used to dealing with antitrust complaints and investigations, though it will still remain an irritation. The restriction of publishers search advertisements from competitors is currently the subject of on-going monitoring from the European Commission, though more prying eyes and prodding fingers from cumbersome regulators is hardly going to enthuse the Google management team.
This is not the first time the FTC would be taking an interest in Google, though since the last investigation in 2013, Senator Hatch has pointed to several developments in the market. Google is currently under a consent order from the agency to hold it more accountable to privacy and data protection rules, though critics have suggested it violated this order with its most recent intrusion into users lives.
Recently Google was exposed for collecting location data on users who had ticked the opt-out button on some popular apps. Google subsequently changed the wording in some T&Cs, stating apps might continue to collect data irrelevant of the opt-out, with the process of actually getting off the Google grid being an incredibly cumbersome and difficult one. The issue here is more about how important Google products are to the lives of consumers, some people simply can’t avoid the products, but this should not be a reason for the internet giant to abuse this position.
President Trump has set his sights on Google, and it seems he has the support of his party, as the Google legal team warms up for another bout with the FTC.