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Group Calls For Google Antitrust Probe 372

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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  • Lawyers (Score:5, Insightful)

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

    I hate those guys.

    • Re:Lawyers (Score:4, Funny)

      by MrMista_B ( 891430 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:02PM (#31934780)

      Until you need one.

      • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          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 n

    • 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.
  • 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 Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:18PM (#31933860)

      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 (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.

      Sounds like these guys are full of shit to me. There is a reason Google faces dozens of antitrust lawsuits every year, and there is a reason none of them go anywhere, even when there are high-powered law firms behind them. It's because they have no merit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mjwx ( 966435 )

      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.

      I'm a bit of a fan of Google but I think this investigation should go ahead. I am confident that Google will not be found guilty, as you said this is not Microsoft, Google has a monopoly in search but unlike MS they don't use their dominant market position to crush com

    • 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 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 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.
      • Just because MS is convicted of monopoly does not mean others are not anti-comparative, and by others, I mean Apple.
        • by tsm_sf ( 545316 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:45PM (#31934116) Journal
          [...]does not mean others are not anti-comparative, and by others, I mean Apple.

          vis a vis oranges, I'm guessing?
        • I never said Apple and Google weren't engaging in anti competitive activities, just pointing out to JoshuaZ that MS didn't didn't grow to where it is because of "outright success", according to the findings of a court of law they cheated.

          How history will regard Google has yet to be written. As to Apple, well, I have a choice to not by a Mac. Do I have a choice to buy a netbook from HP without paying for a MS Windows license that I don't want? No, and I have tried.
    • "This sort of amounts to punishing Google for succeeding."

      The whole problem is with market theory itself, in the real world institutions and key components of society have high barriers to entry as well as becoming a key component of society itself. The whole idea of efficiency tends towards monopoly and centralization.

      • by SEE ( 7681 )

        Yeah, such high barriers to entry that a small Stanford startup was completely unable to compete against AltaVista, Lycos, Yahoo, Excite, MSN Search . . .

    • 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 catmistake ( 814204 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:44PM (#31934994) Journal

        which all web sites have been doing since the beginning of time.

        Modern cosmology now suggests that the Planck epoch [] may have inaugurated a period of unification, and that symmetry breaking then quickly led to the era of cosmic inflation, during which the universe greatly expanded in scale over a very short period of time, violently fueled by the pressure from the Big Bang itself, and tremendous amounts of web-generated ad revenue.

    • 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 drolli ( 522659 )

      Especially because i seriously doubt the sense of breaking a company up. Normally they are broken up along divisions, not inside divisions, thus you have two companies who work together very well.

      Break up MS into Office and OS and: nothing would change. Big Software vendors do not automagically create products for other os

      Break up some telecom into ISP and pure telecommunications company and: They still mainly sell each others products

      Break up google into data center operation and search engine: Still each

    • Oh? You mean like Standard Oil and AT&T?

  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sepodati ( 746220 )

      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.


      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ExploHD ( 888637 )
        According to a recent study [], 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 _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 and Both companies have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google alleging that the search giant shut out their attempts to advertise on

    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 [] bing involved too hard to pass up. It does look intriguing. But I'm reminded of the whole Occam's Razor thing.

    • Occam's razor doesn't mean that the simplest solution is always the correct one. It only means it's more likely. It also doesn't take into account market factors and all the complexities of corporate war.
  • Ok, but.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I want the judge to rule that the plaintiffs not be allowed to use any Google technology in building their case. Soon they'll find that between Yahoo and Bing they could find enough information to argue their way out of a paper bag.

    • But they'll find some really nice pictures of foreign countries! Surely that counts for something, right? Right?
  • 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.

  • by sandyjensen ( 46158 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @07:51PM (#31933556)

    The article criticizing the dashboard [] 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

    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 [] and have a means for providing dashboard feedback.

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

    Maybe it's just too hard to find.

  • 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.

  • "The private interests which use our companies as allies are annoyed with our incapability to subdue google, and therefore we are suing on behalf of them"

    google was out of the traditional establishment and private interest parties. and on more than one occasion it pioneered the public awareness effort to thwart their plans to end that insolent freedoms on the internet. (the anti net neutrality bill proposal a few years back, warrantless private information request refusals, acta etc).

    so basically, they were

  • 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.

  • Who was it that said, "You haven't really succeeded until the Department of Justice comes knocking on your door"? I seem to recall having read that back in the 90s, regarding Microsoft.

    Anyway, congratulations Google. You've really made it now.

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

    Both it and its predecessor link back to

    "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????

  • Google search for term "search engine".... results are:

    2. Bing
    3. Altavista
    4. Wikipedia article on search engines
    5. Google custom search engine (not the main google site)
    7. ... ...

    29. :)

  • Google is ranking down competitors eh? Go ahead, google "search engine". Go ahead, I'll wait. What's the FIRST result? Case dismissed.
  • by Anonymous Coward []

    Don't trust anything they say.

  • even if they are convicted, nothing will happen? Besides, if my Backflip is any indication, Google's so-called monopoly is not worth very much.
  • I think they should be broken up by search terms. Let the "why am I itching" division take on the "lindsay lohan crotch shot" division. It's only fair.
  • I love they way they hold themselfs out as some legit authority by calling themselfs a watchdog, when they are infact nothing more then an anti google mouth piece for google's competitors.

    bring it on I say, this "watchdog" is a bunch of lawyers, how about they put their time and money where their mouth is and take google to court, or are they too frightened?

  • by merc ( 115854 ) <> 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: []

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

  • First, let me get this out of the way: While Google has one of the lowest evilness per size ratio of all the big companies, they still are not exactly good as a monopoly. But that does not matter in what I want to say.

    I'm saying, that it would be awesome to have 3 or 4 actually competing search engines and teams! It would also allow different people to take different directions. Thereby also freeing everyone of what he deems bad, and allowing more cool pet projects to grow big. For Google itself, it would a

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain