Google's Internet search-engine practices receive Senate scrutiny amid an ongoing FTC investigation.
What does “Google” mean? According to competitors of the Internet giant, testifying before the Senate yesterday, Google has come to signify a big bully that beats up on little guys.
“Today, Google doesn’t play fair,” said Jeffrey Katz, CEO of Nextag, an Internet comparison shopping company. “Google rigs its results, biasing in favor of Google Shopping and against competitors like us.”
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt counters that his company always puts consumers first and, at the same time, has started an initiative to help small businesses develop an online presence.
“As much as we would like them to stay with Google, if consumers don’t like the answer that Google Search provides, they can switch to another search engine with just one click,” Schmidt said. “And we make it easy to leave our other services too.”
The fairness issue, reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, will ultimately be decided by the Federal Trade Commission which is investigating Google for possible violation of antitrust rules.
The Senate held yesterday’s hearing to examine how the world’s dominant Internet search engine presents it search results to consumers and treats the businesses it competes with, said Sen. Herb Kohl, D-WI. “Our inquiry centers on whether Google biases these results in its favor, as its critics charge, or whether Google simply does its best to present results in a manner which best serves consumers, as it claims,” Kohl said.
Schmidt acknowledged that numerous companies find fault with Google’s search engine algorithms, but he dismissed the complaints as sour grapes by businesses unhappy with where they fall in Google rankings. Schmidt stressed that Google serves consumers, not businesses.
Google began in the dorm room of two Stanford University students 13 years ago, and now services millions of users every day who go to Google to conduct research and shop. According to Sen. Kohl, Google’s search engines handle about 70 percent of U.S. Internet searches conducted on a computer, and 95 percent of searches made from mobile devices.
As Internet searches have become a main conduit for e-commerce, Google has grown ever-more dominant and for the past five years has been on an “acquisition binge,” said Kohl. “It now owns numerous Internet businesses, including in health, finance, travel, and product comparison. This has transformed Google from a mere search engine into a major Internet conglomerate.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.