FTC Says Google Inc (GOOGL) Has “Abided” By Commitments

26 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

FTC Apologizes for Google Probe Leak.

Following a media firestorm over leaked details of the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into Google’s anti-competitive tactics, the agency has issued an apology. Frequent meetings between Google executives and Federal Trade Commission officials are raising questions about the FTC’s 2013 decision to drop an antitrust probe against the company. Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal published an FTC staff report that suggested the agency believed Google boosted its own services and intentionally demoted content from its rivals. “The Commission takes seriously its obligation to maintain the confidentiality of a business and other sensitive information provided to the agency by all parties involved in our investigations,” the FTC said in a Wednesday statement. “We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a disclosure does not occur in the future.” According to Commissioners Julie Brill and Maureen Ohlhausen, the leaked memo “is only a fraction” of the “comprehensive review” conducted more than two years ago.

According to visitor logs and emails reviewed by the WSJ, Google employees have met with senior officials at the White House about 230 times, “an average of roughly once a week,” since Obama took office. The order instead largely focused on Google’s Motorola subsidiary (which it has since sold to Lenovo) and how the licensing of its patents were handled. The agency settled with the search and advertising company in early 2013. “Contrary to recent press reports, the commission’s decision on the search allegations was in accord with the recommendations of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Economics, and Office of General Counsel,” the commissioners said.

Obama took office,” just one-third as many times as a single lobbyist for Google. (RELATED: FTC Concludes Google Investigation Amidst Lack of Evidence of Unfair Practices) In a press release Wednesday, Net Competition Chairman Scott Cleland said, “the amount of special access Google has to the highest reaches of the U.S. The agency said that it regretted the release of the documents, which were confidential and should not have been included in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Government’s business may not be ‘conducted with impartiality and integrity’ as required under Federal ethics rules.” Google spokeswoman Niki Christoff indicated that the meetings were innocuous, telling the WSJ that, “we think it is important to have a strong voice in the debate and help policy makers understand our business and the work we do to keep the Internet open, to build great products, and to fuel economic growth.” Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman, offered a similar explanation, saying, “White House officials meet with business executives on a range of issues on a regular basis … [and] our staff is cognizant that it is inappropriate to discuss issues relating to regulatory enforcement.” (RELATED: Google Decides What is Fact in New Search Results Ranking System) Significantly, though, Cleland points out that the government’s standards of ethical conduct “are designed to address not only actual conflicts of interest, but also activities that give rise to the appearance of such conflicts” — a relatively low bar that could easily apply in this context.

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