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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

FTC Has Lunch with Google Exec

Story first appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman took time away from a Southern California technology conference to dine with a senior executive at Google Inc., the subject of an intensifying government antitrust probe.

The FTC chairman had lunch yesterday with Google’s senior vice president of advertising, at Catalina Kitchen at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. The pair were attending the D10 conference, put on by technology blog AllThingsD.

Google's senior VP of advertising spearheaded Google’s $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick Inc., an Internet-advertising company, and was involved in Google’s purchase of AdMob Inc., which specializes in mobile ads. Google’s advertising practices are part of the FTC’s antitrust investigation.

The agency is examining whether the company unfairly increases ad rates for competitors, people familiar with the matter have said. FTC officials have also asked rival shopping and review websites whether Google sells them prime advertising space on search results pages, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month.

The FTC is seeking to determine whether Google is using its dominance to thwart competition among Internet companies. Google was used in 67 percent of U.S. searches in April, according to ComScore Inc., a Reston, Virginia-based market researcher.

There are certainly allegations that the search results have changed or evolved over the years. The FTC is trying to figure out if the evidence is there and what the theories are.

Investigation Intensifies

In a separate interview yesterday with Bloomberg, Leibowitz said he recently held meetings with executives at Square Inc., Inc., Zynga Inc. and Mozilla Corp. to discuss online privacy.

It’s valuable to keep lines of communication open” with leaders in the technology industry.

The investigation of Mountain View, California-based Google has intensified in recent weeks as agency lawyers prepare to question the company’s chairman and its chief defender against antitrust charges.

The agency in April hired a top Washington litigator, to run the antitrust investigation. The FTC CHairman states that when presented the opportunity to get someone of her stature and abilities, you would always want to take her up on it. It doesn’t mean that we’ve decided to bring a case at all, it just means that we have very competent counsel who can go toe-to-toe with Google's very competent counsel.

Google Shopping

Google said in a blog post yesterday that it’s starting a product-search service Google Shopping and will require retailers to pay for inclusion in the listings. Google rivals have criticized the company for giving preference to Google product listings in search results.
The charges to manufacturers and retailers represent a change in Google’s practices, an Internet search analyst, said in a column this week on the Marketing Land blog. In its 2004 initial public offering letter, Google said the company wouldn’t accept payment for including specific search results.

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