FTC slaps Google on the Wrist


The Federal Trade Commission, which has been investigating Google for anti-competitive actions and bullying other websites has handed down a settlement early today: the news aint good for the Google

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While Google technically got a slap on the wrist – and had the FTC drop the investigation – the settlement focused on two very important aspects of how Google has been operating.

Google got an earful over its own behaviour online.  While the FTC didn’t go so far as to bar Google for its self-preferential search results, they did put a stop to so-called content-scraping from rivals, such as Yelp! and using that information for, say, Google Local.  Google is also barred from continuing to threaten other websites with demotion in the search.  In the settlement, FTC chair John Leibowitz used the word ‘Extortion’

The FTC began by blocking patents that Google acquired from Motorola.  Google will now have to license out those patent to potential buyers, and those that are deemed ‘standard essential’ – that is, necessary to smart phones and tablet existing – will be available for free.  For consumers, this means less of a patent war. For Google, who purchased Motorola for $12.5 Billion for pretty much only its patents, they might be smarting for a long time, especially when it comes to its own smartphone arsenal.

The settlement mostly favours smaller sites online, such as Yelp! who cannot compete with Google.  Google will now have to make more content for its own apps, or buy up the smaller companies it scrapes the information from.

This is all considered a slap on the wrist for Google, which could have seen the FTC take a much harder stance, as it did with Microsoft some years prior.  While Google can’t demote other sites, it can still, legally, promote its own services, such as YouTube, Maps and of course Local.  With the investigation now closed, Google is technically free from the treaty of an antitrust case and can continue to hoc its own wares.

Read the entirety of the settlement here

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