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Group Calls For Google Antitrust Probe 372

Posted by samzenpus
from the break-it-up-over-there dept.
CWmike writes "Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog called on the DOJ to launch a broad antitrust investigation into Google's search and advertising practices and consider a wide array of penalties, including possibly breaking the company up (PDF). The watchdog, along with a mobile entrepreneur and two lawyers representing Google rivals, called for an investigation focusing on a number of issues, including Google's marriage of search results to advertising and its book search service. '...We think all remedies should be on the table, including, we think, the possible breakup of the Internet giant,' said John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog. Adam Kovacevich, senior manager for global communications and public affairs at Google, discounted the criticisms, saying Consumer Watchdog has been 'relentlessly negative' about Google. The group recently questioned the reasons why Google stopped censoring search results in China, and criticized Google's privacy Dashboard as inadequate, Kovacevich said."
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Group Calls For Google Antitrust Probe

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  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:30PM (#31933322)
    From the summary

    Adam Kovacevich, senior manager for global communications and public affairs at Google,

    So Google pays Kovacevich.

  • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:42PM (#31933460)

    So the first reaction is obvious: who's behind this? From the linked article:

    Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to the DOJ Wednesday asking that the agency investigate Google for antitrust violations. "For most Americans -- indeed, for most people in the world -- Google is the gateway to the Internet," the letter said. "How it tweaks its proprietary search algorithms can ensure a business' success or doom it to failure."

    ...

    Google has manipulated search and advertisement placement results to shut out potential competitors who counted on Google results to drive traffic to their sites, said Joseph Bial, a lawyer at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft who represents myTriggers.com and TradeComet.com. Both companies have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google alleging that the search giant shut out their attempts to advertise on Google.com.

    Apparently, people who make a business out of gaming Google's algorithm. The very folks that muddy up searches with crap links to various questionable "offers", link farms, and johnny-come-lately web apps. And they're claiming Google has a bias in their search results? Do tell.

    Granted - conspiracy theorists might find the possibility of other actors [techdirt.com] bing involved too hard to pass up. It does look intriguing. But I'm reminded of the whole Occam's Razor thing.

  • by MrHanky (141717) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:44PM (#31933492) Homepage Journal

    What? You have to use Youtube, Gmail and Wave when you use Google Search? That's actually what you're saying. Sopssa, you're an idiot.

  • by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:48PM (#31933528)
    Breaking up companies always bugs me when the companies has grown primarily based on outright success.

    How about a company that used its monopoly in a market to lock out and hurt competitors?

    That is the big difference between Microsoft, Apple and Google. MS was convicted of monopoly abuse, the others have not.
  • by sandyjensen (46158) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:51PM (#31933556)

    The article criticizing the dashboard [consumerwatchdog.org] has already been slashdotted but (oh irony) it was in my chrome cache.

    The group also said that the Dashboard, though useful, is not easy to find.

    “If they want people to use this, why isn’t there a direct link from the home page?” asked Simpson. “In other contexts Google likes to say competition is one click away. They’ve buried the Dashboard. The extra password verification is a good security measure, but why can’t you get there with one click from a Dashboard link on the home page?”

    The google dashboard is cleverly "buried" at google.com/dashboard

    Navigating to it requires the user to select the "Settings => Google Account settings" dropdown at the top right of the page when you're logged in. Maybe I've been around computers for more than a few minutes and that gives me an advantage, but that felt like a pretty natural way to find this.

    I agree that Google needs to take more steps to make user behavior anonymous, but at least they're honest about that [google.com] and have a means for providing dashboard feedback.

    And FWIW I don't see anything in the Microsoft Online Privacy Statement [microsoft.com] about giving users a way to control their data. Nor in the Yahoo Privacy Center [yahoo.com].

    Maybe it's just too hard to find.

  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:54PM (#31933600) Homepage Journal

    Anti-trust is about determining whether a company is limiting competition or using one monopoly market to leverage itself into another.

    1. Google has a huge market share in search, but it's got plenty of competition, and there's nothing stopping customers from switching to that competition immediately: there's no switching cost at all.

    2. Google might have a monopoly on advertising, but I don't think so. The latest numbers I can find are from Jan. '09, which put Adsense at 57%. It's probably larger than that now. Not likely to be labeled a monopoly, though.

    Google has protected itself very well with the Data Liberation Project. That alone will probably scuttle any attempt to prove Google is limiting competition. There's no tying, either.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:55PM (#31933602)

    MS needs to be broken up for bundling software? What about Apple for only allowing their software to run on their hardware?

    I'm getting tired of people constantly bringing up this argument. Listen carefully: MS is a monopoly. Apple isn't. It's nearly impossible to buy a PC or laptop without Windows; it's easy to avoid buying a Mac or any other Apple device or service or software. How many people do you know who own a Mac? I don't know a single one. How about a PC/laptop running Windows? Just about everyone I know has one.

    The rules are different when you're a monopoly.

    I know market share plays a big role here (as in Apple doesn't have enough for it to matter)

    Aha, you're starting to get it.

    but they're way worse about their terms of use and forcing people to use their stuff than anyone else.

    And guess what? It doesn't matter! Precisely because Apple is not a monopoly, and has a ~5% market share (or whatever; I'd be surprised if it were that high to be honest). When you're a bit player, you don't get all the scrutiny of someone who utterly dominates a market (a.k.a. monopoly).

    No one is "forced" to use Apple stuff. If you don't like Macs, get a PC (after all, if you want to run most commercial application software, it's almost unavoidable). If you don't like iPhones, get an Android phone, a Blackberry, a smartphone running WinMo, a Palm, etc. If you don't like iPods, get a Zune, an iriver, a Sansa, a Cowon, etc. Yes, Apple likes to tie things together, and coerce everyone into running iTunes. Don't like it? Don't buy an iPod, an iPhone, or a Mac.

  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:05PM (#31933724) Journal

    Seems the way Apple has 'warmed up' to Google, I wont be surprised if Apple is behind this. They are capable of something like this, given their pathetic way of hyping up latest iphone or whatever.

    Boy, some people never miss a chance.

    Tinfoil hat time, folks: "It must be a conspiracy!"

    The fact that Consumer Watchdog [wikipedia.org] has been around as an independent, non-partisan, non-profit entity since 1985 means nothing, I guess. Not when there's a chance to vilify the latest boogie man, whoever it might be. It used to be Microsoft, currently it's Apple. In a few years maybe it will be Google.

    You conspiracy-minded types need to get a grip. Not everything that happens in this world is due to shady forces working in secret. Sometimes things are exactly what they appear to be.

  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:09PM (#31933760) Journal

    The only thing you need to do search properly is spidering.

    That's not true. Why do you think Google does so much datamining? Why do you think they have a wide amount of data what people search for and how much? Why do you think they send a hidden javascript GET request in the background on what search result you click on?

    Maybe in the 90's you could make a search engine with only by spidering, but that's completely different now.

    The other point is that to improve a search engine you need to know a lot about what people search for and which result they click on (which most likely is a good result). Google's monopoly gets it massive amount more of this data than Bing, or any other starting search engine. This is also why they can offer better search results, and keep competition away.

  • by Sepodati (746220) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:13PM (#31933806) Homepage

    AT&T has the highest market share at 28% according to a presentation I saw the other day. Where is the majority share you're talking about and who has it? Limited competition? There are several national carriers you can turn to as well as smaller rural services, depending on where you live. Or pay-as-you-go. Where's the limited competition?

    Maybe you could prove collusion amongst the carriers to fix text message prices... Good luck with that.

    John

  • by voss (52565) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:23PM (#31933946)

    http://techrights.org/2009/05/04/consumer-watchdog-exposed/ [techrights.org]

    Both it and its predecessor link back to grassroots.com.

    "At Grassroots Enterprise, we combine the best of cutting-edge Internet technology with high-impact communications to build movements that make an impact.
      What does this mean, in plain English? In a nutshell, that means that we help clients:"

    The question is who is the client????

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:51PM (#31934170)

    http://techrights.org/2009/05/04/consumer-watchdog-exposed/ [techrights.org]

    Don't trust anything they say.

  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:02PM (#31934246) Journal

    Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves)
    Baidu (Chinese,Japanese)
    Bing (formerly MSN Search and Live Search)
    Cuil
    Duck Duck Go
    Google
    Kosmix
    Sogou (Chinese)
    Yodao (Chinese)
    Yahoo! Search
    Yandex (Russian)
    Yebol

    Lets see the general English search engines from your list and exclude Yahoo because it will start using Bing search engine. Duck Duck Go "uses information from crowd-sourced sites (like Wikipedia)", so I don't think you can really count it as it doesn't search the other web. Kosmix also seems gather information only from Wikipedia, Flickr and the likes. So the list comes down to:

    General
    Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves)
    Bing (formerly MSN Search and Live Search)
    Cuil
    Google
    Yebol

    Cuil and Yebol are having difficulties just for the same reason as Bing and who is actually using them? I was surprised Ask is still around. The fact is, if Bing quit, it would be 99% marketshare for Google.

  • by merc (115854) <slashdot@upt.org> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:35PM (#31934562) Homepage

    Microsoft has already been exposed using CWD in the past as part of their fake astroturfing attacks:

    http://techrights.org/2009/05/04/consumer-watchdog-exposed/ [techrights.org]

    I'm just saying, as with anything, always consider the source.

  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:55PM (#31934732) Homepage Journal

    Unless others were giving the products away before Google entered the market. I can't think of a Google product that didn't have a free competitor prior.

  • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:22PM (#31934882)

    If someone has a very strong motive to do something, it makes an exception to occam's razor much more likely.

    Seriously. Look at some facts. [techrights.org] This company is linked to known astroturfers.

  • by TheRecklessWanderer (929556) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:21PM (#31935274) Journal
    You know as soon as you see a group, then you read into it a bit more and you find out that a lot of the group is composed of competitors. so then it goes from being a group with a legitimate complaint to a group of cry babies who can't compete and are trying to get the government to help them because they are weak.
  • Re:too big to fail (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:16AM (#31935818)

    This is all blatant bullshit.

    Switching from Gmail is free and easy. It does not cost "a ton," you are just making shit up. You can use IMAP to copy the messages over to your new account.
    http://www.dataliberation.org/google/gmail

    Switching from Docs is free and easy. You just select all your docs and download them in one big zip file, then move them wherever the hell you want.
    http://www.dataliberation.org/google/google-docs

  • by Entiex (1376325) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:46AM (#31935912)

    Wrong. It is anti-capitalist to break up any company. For any company, there is an optimal size based on what type of market they are in. There are a number of markets where this optimal size happens to be the entire market or more. This is a natural monopoly and is OK. "Buying out the nearest competitor," if done with a plan to then use the resulting monopoly position to raise prices, is an excellent way to go broke.

    Raising prices, or in general being economically inefficient, attracts competition into your market. Buying out competitors with the intention to later raise prices just wastes the money you spent on that competitor. Buying out competitors in order to make your company a stronger competitor (AKA what Google does) is completely fine. A natural monopoly is fine simply because they reach and keep their position by being a better competitor, which is good for end consumers.

    Having one source being the source of every produce or service is not necessarily bad, it is only "bad" if, through some magical means, they manage to use this position to induce economic inefficiency for personal benefit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:42AM (#31936366)

    What the flock does MSFT have to do with this? How about Apple which has a larger axe to grind considering the potential success of Droid and Android which will take market share dfrom Apple, more so than probably MSFT. Sorry, but MSFT is not the bogey man any more look at your Apple, FanBoy. Check all the lawsuits they have going against small entities (HTC) DIPwads or and Bush is STILL President.

    I'll give you a hint. (from a poster just a couple of comments above.)

    May be something, may be nothing - TradeComet's lawyer (one of the two lawyers in TFA) is from the same firm that does all of Microsoft's anti-trust work. It's tough to imagine such a firm would take on Google in an anti-trust case without at the very least getting Microsoft's blessing. It's not impossible though, MS may have nothing at all to do with it. It could all be coincidence.

    Oh and TradeComet's anti-trust lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality - the judge ruled that the Adwords contract venue stipulation applied.

    Also Google has a collections lawsuit pending with myTrigger.com (the other lawyer in TFA) for unpaid bills. That's funny, because this is all about sites being redirected away from legitimate business, but the only time one pays for Adwords is if someone clicked through.

  • Re:I hate vultures. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ultranova (717540) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @06:27AM (#31936970)

    I hate vultures disguised as lawyers.

    Vultures perform the useful and valuable task of removing carrion that would otherwise rot, smell, and spread diseases. Lawyers, on the other hand, are more like parasitic worms that live in your gut, rob your food, and cause dysentry to propagate through shit they caused to happen. Comparing lawyers to vultures is a vile insult towards the honest and hard-working carrion-eaters.

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