Google Responds To FTC Inquiry: "Using Google Is A Choice"

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Yesterday news broke that the FTC is preparing to launch a major investigation into Google’s “core search advertising business” and the way its search results are presented — an investigation that could have major ramifications for the search giant.

Google has faced plenty of scrutiny from the FTC before, including lengthy investigations during its acquisitions of AdMob and ITA. But now the government organization is examining Google’s business on the whole, which means the stakes are bigger. (Here’s a detailed guide by Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land that outlines all of the recent antitrust investigations Google is dealing with).

A few minutes ago, Google posted its initial response to the inquiry on its official blog.

Google’s post, which is titled “Supporting choice, ensuring economic opportunity”, outlines some of the company’s oft-stated core values (and repeatedly points out that consumers can easily change to another search engine). The post is far from combative, but it does preemptively respond to some of the complaints.

Regarding the fact that Google frequently integrates its own products into results in a way that might lead to fewer clicks to third-party sites:

Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow. No matter what you’re looking for—buying a movie ticket, finding the best burger nearby, or watching a royal wedding—we want to get you the information you want as quickly as possible. Sometimes the best result is a link to another website. Other times it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, a video or a map.

A brief response to complaints from sites that say Google is purposely punishing them in search result rankings for anticompetitive reasons:

We make hundreds of changes to our algorithms every year to improve your search experience. Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results.

And then there’s the matter of Choice — a word that appears five times in their post, including the headline. Google has long made the argument that a competitive search engine is always a few clicks away, and that its success is a result of consumers choosing it, rather than being locked in. Google also points out its Data Liberation Front, which is Google’s initiative to help users export their Google data should they wish to do so.

Search helps you go anywhere and discover anything, on an open Internet. Using Google is a choice—and there are lots of other choices available to you for getting information: other general-interest search engines, specialized search engines, direct navigation to websites, mobile applications, social networks, and more.

Because of the many choices available to you, we work constantly on making search better, and will continue to follow the principles that have guided us from the beginning:

At this point Google says it doesn’t know exactly what the FTC’s concerns are — expect to see more posts from them once the inquiry gets under way.