'Nuanced,' 'concerning': US drops Google probe

Google Inc. "came to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission today in a high-profile antitrust case that involved 9 million pages of testimony," writes Jessica Leber here at MIT Technology Review.

"The decision is an important victory for Google, even though it agreed to some concessions that would give competitors access to key mobile patents and make it easier for advertisers to use rival search engines," adds Leber.  FTC statement here. 

Writes Rutgers Law School antitrust expert Michael Carrier: 

  1. Smart idea to drop the case against Google search.
    a. More effects on competitors than competition;
    b. Consumers want integrated results;
    c. Government monitoring of remedy would be messy...
  2. [FTC in its statement provides] the most nuanced framework we’ve yet seen on standard essential patents:
    a. Binding arbitration is positive development given uncertainty of RAND (“reasonable & nondiscriminatory”) terms
    b. Parties must agree to pay what arbitrator determines (avoid problem of Apple refusing to be bound by determination in Wisconsin case)

From the MIT article: "One big question was whether the company unfairly stifles competition by favoring its own search 'verticals,' such as shopping, local or travel... FTC decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify legal action...

"Google will continue to allow companies like Yelp to opt-out of having their pages “scraped,” a practice that allows snippets of text to appear in Google products like Maps. And it has promised it won’t demote search results of companies that opt-out.

"It’s fairly concerning, however, that the FTC is going to trust Google to maintain neutrality going forward, and doesn’t plan to monitor its search algorithm for bias." Also that it took two years to decide not to go any further.