Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Google Government Your Rights Online

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Group Calls For Google Antitrust Probe

Comments Filter:
  • Lawyers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:23PM (#31933236)

    I hate those guys.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:25PM (#31933262) Journal

    While I think constant vigilance is needed with Google, this looks like nothing more than Microsoft once again using other groups to legitimize it's attacks on a competitor that has with consistent success kicked it in the ass at every turn.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:31PM (#31933342) Homepage
    Breaking up companies always bugs me when the companies has grown primarily based on outright success. This sort of amounts to punishing Google for succeeding. And I have a lot of trouble understanding how there could be a substantial anti-trust issue. They aren't bundling goods in a bad way. The ads are clearly kept separate from searches in that advertisements don't alter Google rankings and you can tell at a glance if something is an advertisement or a search result. So there's no problem here. This is in contrast to some other search engines which specifically allowed companies to pay for higher ranking in search results. The authors of the complaint claim that Google has manipulated its search results to harm potential competitors. Frankly, that sounds more like sour grapes at not having done as well as Google.
  • by thepike (1781582) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:33PM (#31933368)

    If anyone needs to be broken up, it's MS, for collusion between their application software (esp. MS Office) and their OS, and their browser, and now they're trying to take over search from Google with "Bing".

    Really? MS needs to be broken up for bundling software? What about Apple for only allowing their software to run on their hardware? Why do they get to stop psystar from selling their clones, but MS can't put their browser on their OS? Also, Office doesn't come bundled with the OS usually, except as a trial, so you're eventually have to choose to buy it (though obviously the trial version and ubiquity encourages that purchase).

    I know market share plays a big role here (as in Apple doesn't have enough for it to matter) but they're way worse about their terms of use and forcing people to use their stuff than anyone else.

  • by ExploHD (888637) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:37PM (#31933406)
    When are the mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and so forth are going to be held to these anti-trust laws? They have a majority share in markets, have limited competition, and we're paying high costs for things as simple as texting.

    Google gives their stuff away for free and I can go anywhere else to search for what I need. People need to figure out their priorities.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:47PM (#31933516)

    Bullshit.

    How is Google "anti-competitive"? And what is with all this whining about privacy?

    If you don't want to use Google services, then don't. There's tons of alternatives.

    Google Search -> Bing, Yahoo, etc.
    YouTube -> dozens of different sites, or just don't use it.
    Book Search -> your local library, Amazon.com, etc.
    Gmail -> Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, your ISP-provided email, various non-free email services, etc.
    Google Maps -> Mapquest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, etc.

    Furthermore, exactly how much does it cost to use Google services anyway?

    I calculate that, aside from Google AdWords (for a small business I have on the side), I have spent exactly $0.00 on Google Search, YouTube, Book Search, Gmail, Google Earth, Google Maps, and every other Google service. I'm not about to start complaining about them until I feel like I'm being coerced somehow into opening my wallet for them.

    Separating Windows from other MS services made tons of sense, because Windows is a monopoly, and it's nearly impossible to buy a non-Apple desktop or laptop computer without it. There's nothing forcing you to use Google. In fact, it should be easier to type "bing.com" at your address bar instead of "google.com", since it has two fewer letters.

  • sounds great! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bugi (8479) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:51PM (#31933554)

    Sure, sounds great, so long as we get to retroactively break up microsoft while we're at it.

  • too big to fail (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bugi (8479) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:53PM (#31933580)

    Speaking of companies getting too big, what say a determination of "too big to fail" automatically gets it broken up? Too big to fail is not good for the economy, even if they got that way by being saints.

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:54PM (#31933586)

    Anti-trust is not about bundling goods, it's about restricting access to a limited resource. For example, the Microsoft case - they were not hit with an anti-trust suit because they held 95% of the computer market, they were hit with the anti-trust lawsuit because they were using their 95% share of the computer market to force alternative web browsers out of the browser market. The bundling was illegal because they were using their position in the computer market to keep OEMs from bundling third party browsers with the Windows computers they sold.

    I simply cannot see how the same thing is true with Google - the only key resources regarding internet search that Google has access to are their database and mechanism for crawling web pages, and their search algorithm. Anybody can crawl web pages, I could do it right now if I wanted to, Google is in no way restricting that, and the key elements of Google's search algorithm are well known.

    There is absolutely nothing stopping anybody from creating an alternative to Google using the exact same resources that Google uses, and in fact there are several. However, if your service is not better, don't expect anybody to use it. Breaking the company up won't help anything. You'll just have four Googles dominating the market instead of just one.

    If they are trying to say that Google's search results are the limited resource, they are full of shit. Google is selling ad space on their web pages, which all web sites have been doing since the beginning of time. If that is their beef, they need to be looking at Google compared to the entire fucking internet when making their claims, because that is the internet ad market Google is competing with. They are also not forcing anybody to do anybody, they aren't doing anything unfair at all. They are just "winning". Unfortunately, to some losers "winning" is unfair.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:01PM (#31933664)

    What the hell are you talking about? The only thing you need to do search properly is spidering. No one is restricted from doing that by Google. As far as I can tell, Bing certainly does compete with Google in search. It's not Google's fault that no one trusts MS to provide unbiased results, especially after all the instances where searching for "linux" returned results like "how to migrate from Linux to Windows".

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:06PM (#31933726) Homepage Journal

    My foot it is.. Its their competition that is trying to stir stuff up.

    Sure, it may be a valid concern, but when they hide behind fake 'watchdog' group names, you have to question the motivation.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:11PM (#31933784)

    HAH! It's funny that when Microsoft has a so called monopoly, it's the end of the world but when Google has a monopoly... it must be Microsoft.

    Microsoft does have a monopoly, an illegal monopoly that was acquired via a number of seriously dirty moves, deliberately violating the law in order to remove consumer choice. Or do you believe that that our choosing to use Google's services more than any other company is a sign of inherent illegal monopolism? Well, if we do, that's not bad: it's because Google does a better job at delivering the services we want than anyone else.

    Do you understand what the term monopoly means, and that having a monopoly in a particular area is not, in and of itself, against the law? It's the manner in which you achieve your monopoly status, and what you do with it once you have it that counts. I don't see Google suing competitors out of existence, although they've certainly snapped up a number of startups, generally for technologies that they need for their own products. Sure ... they're damn serious competition to anyone wanting to enter the search and online advertising business, but it's because millions upon millions of people have decided that Google does what they want. It's not because of backroom deals with hardware manufacturers to only ship Google's products. That's Microsoft's way.

  • by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:15PM (#31933824) Journal
    >>I'm getting tired of people constantly bringing up this argument. Listen carefully: MS is a monopoly. Apple isn't.

    I am getting tired of people constantly bringing up this argument. Listen: Apple is anti-competitive, more than MS even with it's so called monopoly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:16PM (#31933830)

    If you search for a trailer of some movie or a game, what result comes as first? YouTube, complete with a thumbnail of the trailer to distinct from the other results.

    Gee whiz. It would hope if there was an actual competitor to Youtube. Bing always lists movies.yahoo.com first -- and who the fuck has heard of this site?

    Same for Book Search and other services.

    No, Amazon always comes first, along with other shopping sites.

    But that's not even the point. The point is that because of the amount of datamining Google does, no one can even compete with them. Bing can't get enough long-tail keyword data so they can improve their service. No one else can either.

    Yes it is. You tried listing anti-competitive behavior of Google and failed completely. Nice backpedaling.

    It's actually funny, in that I concur Google is (mildly) anti-competitive. But at least pretend to know what you are talking about - at this point, I am hard pressed not to consider your posts as veiled trolling.

  • by webdog314 (960286) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:17PM (#31933848)

    How would you even break a company like Google up? I mean, it's success is at least partially due to the fact that it's one giant cloud. Separating different parts of Google (gmail, wave, etc) would still require that they all use that same cloud, wouldn't it?

  • by jasonwc (939262) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:23PM (#31933942)

    Except of course you're ignoring the fact that a monopoly created on the basis of customer preference/superior service is not a violation of the Antitrust Laws. Maintaining their search monopoly by continually adding features and increasing the quality of their product, thus preventing competitors from gaining a large enough market share to compete effectively, simply isn't a violation of the Sherman or Clayton Acts.

    And I don't see them using their monopoly unfairly to expand into other markets. They do link to their other services, but often the top hit for most of my searches is Wikipedia. The top hit is almost always the most relevant, or at the least, a highly relevant, source.

    Why shouldn't they provide trailers on Youtube. It was the most popular provider of online video clips when it was purchased, and continues to be so today. Would you force them to link to another site, even where that site is inferior? Customers want links to Youtube. Also, they do provide links to other popular video sites, if there are relevant hits. Obviously, there will be more Youtube hits, on average, because of the site's popularity. I just don't see any attempt by Google to suppress their competitors.

    Being big + better than your competitors =! Antitrust violation

  • by ExploHD (888637) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:32PM (#31934014)
    According to a recent study [techcrunchies.com], the top four (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-mobile) control 80%. They have limited competition by buying all the little carriers up. $200 termination fees per two year line doesn't really give anyone a chance to move and explore the competition.
  • by MrHanky (141717) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:32PM (#31934016) Homepage Journal

    Let's take your example, and search for a movie trailer. Avatar. Bing's first result is a fucking blog called avatar-trailer -- at Google's own Blogspot.com, followed by traileraddicts, youtube, youtube and Apple. Google's result's are Youtube first (with thumbnails), then three different services, image search thumbnails, then the fucking blog again, followed by the official site. The problem here isn't Google's data mining, but the fact that Bing's first hit just isn't what you're looking for. Bing is simply not very good. You can't blame Google for that.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:36PM (#31934058)

    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?

    It's called "advertising". They make all their money on it, and the more effective they can make it, the more profitable they are. They datamine because it makes their advertising (AdWords, etc.) more effective. It's a waste, for instance, if a Slashdotter gets shown an ad for feminine hygiene products, but if he's shown an ad for some obscure item he might be interested in, such as D&D paraphernalia or whatever, the likelihood of that resulting in a sale is comparatively very high. Google wants to find out what people are interested in, and show them ads for that stuff.

    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).

    I completely disagree. The only thing you need to know about in a search string is the string itself, and what compares with this. Google is still using the PageRank algorithm: pages with lots of links to them are more popular than pages with few links to them, and get ranked higher in search results. Your prior search history is irrelevant. What your prior search history IS relevant to, however, is the ads which you're shown. These are separate from the search results.

    Besides, what exactly are you proposing? You seem to be complaining that Google is too big, and this means they get to mine more data. What's the alternative? Break up their search and advertising functions? How exactly do you expect a search engine to finance itself? The only other big search provider, Microsoft, does it by taking money from their monopoly in OSes.

    Face it, a search engine is a free service that takes significant resources to provide, and makes zero money on its own. It has to be financed somehow. I suppose you could try a subscription-based search service, but with the history of for-pay services on the web, I expect that to go over like a lead balloon.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:59PM (#31934224) Homepage

    Microsoft was a monopoly because it was (in the early nineties) practically the only OS available. Everything else was a special-order job. You couldn't just go into a major store and get a Mac.

    Being a monopoly is not inherently bad. Google's near-monopoly on searching is not bad. What is bad is when that market share gets abused to stifle competition. As a textbook example, consider the old phone system: small local carriers weren't allowed to hook their systems to the big carriers. Because they couldn't connect, they couldn't attract customers, no matter how innovative their system might be. This is a perfect case where a monopoly halts innovation.

    Microsoft's Windows situation was similar. They bundled IE with Windows and made removal extremely difficult. They ensured that IE appeared to be a vital component of Windows, though it was shown repeatedly that there was no real dependency. No matter how innovative Netscape Navigator was, IE gained its market share simply by being the default.

    The concern here is that Google's bundling of services might be affecting competition. For example, other advertising companies might be considered useless, since they can't approach the visibility of Google's services. Likewise, Google's constant promoting of its other services may be impacting the ability for other companies to gain a competitive foothold.

    Personally, I don't see what Google does as anything close to the anticompetitive practices Microsoft followed. That's just my opinion, though, and more facts might come in later...

  • by Moridin42 (219670) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:00PM (#31934228)

    Actually, it couldn't be less predatory. I know those search engines from Before Google sucked. But you know what they charged you? The same as Google.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:04PM (#31934266)

    I just used their web based internal report search and had the string "Microsoft Antitrust" return nothing but their articles and reports on how Google is trying to dominate the printed word on the net. Here is the url it returned http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/search/?searchQuery=microsoft+antitrust&x=16&y=12 ......sounds fishy to me!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:06PM (#31934296)

    I think Google has made several companies like Microsoft change from their evil ways.
    Remember the time when Microsoft and other search engines used to include paid results in the search result without informing the user?
    Remember the time when you had pay for POP3 and SMTP at Hotmail, Yahoo and other email providers?
    Remember the time when your Sent mail folder was periodically emptied?
    Remember the time when you had a limited size mailbox?
    Remember the time you had to pay for high quality satellite imagery for personal on time use?

    Google changed the game when it introduced several services for free and without the limitations that people took for granted.

    The only thing I do not like is the huge collection of web user behaviour that Google collects without consent or knowledge of users on its own site and other sites.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:19PM (#31934414) Homepage

    If I use Windows today. That impacts my ability to use something else tomorrow because I have to BUY EVERYTHING ELSE AGAIN.

    The moment I buy one bit of Windows payware or a movie on iTunes, I immediately close my options for tomorrow.

    Before I can dump that platform, I have to replace all of those 3rd party bits that won't work on any other platform.

    I can trivially decide to use Bing (even as a diehard longtime Linux user) one minute and then casually switch back to Google the next.

    THAT is the key difference between Google as a "monopoly" or Microsoft or Apple.

    "leveraging" is a different issue. However, Apple seems much more likely to be guilt of this than Google.

    Monopolies are about distorting the market and preventing users from fleeing to your competitor.

    Where does that exist here really?

  • by GlassHeart (579618) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:42PM (#31934634) Journal

    I'm not about to start complaining about them until I feel like I'm being coerced somehow into opening my wallet for them.

    While Google search is dominant, and perhaps arguably a monopoly, I agree that it has certainly not leveraged that market power in anti-competitive ways. However, just because they give you all these goodies for free doesn't mean you shouldn't be wary, because even free things distort the market in some way. Google's high quality and free services generally destroy the markets for those services, because few others can compete, as Google doesn't need the money and you do. IOW, Google can unintentionally squish something that might have been really cool, and that invisible loss may ultimately not be in the public good.

    If somebody gave out free vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream, it may be impossible to start and sustain a for-profit ice cream business by selling other flavors. And then we'll only ever have three (free) flavors.

  • by malchus842 (741252) <stephen@adamsemail.net> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:47PM (#31934668) Homepage

    There is NOTHING unmanageable about Google. Their management and board are doing just fine, thanks. Breaking up a company for being successful is INSANE. The entire claims appear to be predicated on a wrong understanding of what the law says. Being a monopoly is not, in and of itself illegal. Anti-competitive practices ARE illegal. Google is not, from what I can see, doing anything other than being very good at what they do.

    Barriers to entry are limited to having servers and a search algorithm. I can have a web-crawer running tomorrow and a search engine in short order. If I do bette than Google, people will come to me. If I don't, I don't get to whine to the government because I am not competent enough to do a better job!

  • by Hylandr (813770) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:57PM (#31934740) Homepage
    Thats not anti-competition, Thats failing to compete, and it's not Googles fault.

    Anti-Competition is when one side makes deals with hardware vendors to prevent competitors products from being offered or penalizes consumers for choosing the competitors offerings.

    Your description would penalize a winning team for defeating their opponent.

    As Abraham Lincoln said: You cannot give strength to the weak, by weakening the strong.

    - Dan.
  • Re:sounds great! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by celle (906675) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:26PM (#31934906)

    and apple, let's not forget to breakup apple just for kicks. Ah forget apple, break up steve jobs just for kicks.

  • by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:47PM (#31935012)

    On the subject of text messaging, it's obvious to anyone with a brain that there's been collusion.

    If they were trying to optimize their networks and provide better service, the base plan would be for text and voice minutes would cost extra.

  • by i_ate_god (899684) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:31PM (#31935342) Homepage

    Microsoft's Windows situation was similar. They bundled IE with Windows and made removal extremely difficult. They ensured that IE appeared to be a vital component of Windows, though it was shown repeatedly that there was no real dependency. No matter how innovative Netscape Navigator was, IE gained its market share simply by being the default.

    Right, bundling and promoting microsoft software, on microsoft software, that's pretty bad.

    The concern here is that Google's bundling of services might be affecting competition. For example, other advertising companies might be considered useless, since they can't approach the visibility of Google's services. Likewise, Google's constant promoting of its other services may be impacting the ability for other companies to gain a competitive foothold.

    So google doesn't pretty much the same thing. Only instead of software, it's services. None the less, an abuse of their monopoly right?

    Personally, I don't see what Google does as anything close to the anticompetitive practices Microsoft followed. That's just my opinion, though, and more facts might come in later...

    Now hold on... I'm not sure I understand? What you're saying is, bundling software is abuse of a monopoly position, but bundling services is not?

  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@nospaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:35PM (#31935378) Homepage Journal

    You know what? Screw this. I was defending MS and Apple in other posts, but let's actually compare:

    Google bought ON2. Why? Apparently so that it can release VP8 as open source for everyone to use so that the <video> debate can be done and we can move on.

    Apple? Supposedly, they're going to buy ARM. Why? So they can shut down all the competing ARM devices.

    I'm through being reasonable. Google's big, but it definitely doesn't suck.

  • I hate vultures. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:49PM (#31935456) Journal

    No, I don't hate lawyers.

    I hate vultures disguised as lawyers.

  • Re:Lawyers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:09AM (#31935554)
    Rarely does one need a lawyer except for the actions of other lawyers.
  • Re:Lawyers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:32AM (#31936316) Homepage

    Lawyers is a great profession, at least from a mathematical perspective. Lawyers are lawyers, but what people mostly forget is that just about all lawmakers are (or have been) lawyers (at least the democrats). Judges are also ex-lawyers. And since the government's been starting all this "too big to fail" bailouts there's a very surprising increase in the number of lawyer ceo's in wall street and the car (ex-)industry.

    So the fun thing about lawyers is : the more lawyers you have, the more extra lawyers you need. It's like a runaway nuclear reaction. It's tha bomb man.

    Of course this only remains interesting until you ask the question as to who pays for it all ...

  • by e70838 (976799) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:01AM (#31936432)
    I think he does.
    Google is a white knight and that is what irritates so many people (apple, ...). Google is not perfect, it has made a big mistake with buzz. Google has an ideological model that is very different from Microsoft.
    For the moment, Google is very powerful and imagining this power in the hand of a company similar to Microsoft is very frightening.
    Certainly, things will change (this is an old chinese proverb). Perhaps this will be because of lawyers.
    Perhaps this will be for evil and we will regret to have given so much power to Google.
    AFAIK, nobody can predict the future.
    For the moment, Google succeed in improving progress rate of our society and this is very different from Microsoft that has hinder computer science progress during so many years.
    I think we should be very grateful to Google and we must be very vigilant on every activities of Google. The cited scrutinity is legitimate and mandatory. It shall just be made in a fair spirit.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @06:16AM (#31936922) Homepage

    You know, with all of that said, at the end of the day, Google is an advertising company. They collect information to share with people seeking to market things to people. I find the majority of advertising and marketing to be at the very least annoying and frequently even dangerous in many ways. I am not saying Google is "evil." I am saying that they are an advertiser first and foremost. I don't hate google, but I always maintain an ounce of skepticism. I will probably never run a Google Linux distro. I may run an android based phone but only after it has been completely reviewed for information collection/transmission and cleared of such nonsense. People say "know your enemy." I also say *know your friends" as well. I favor Google to serve up useful search information. But I am also careful not to use any Google services that might compromise my data any more than I need to.

"Though a program be but three lines long, someday it will have to be maintained." -- The Tao of Programming

Working...