FTC Probe Focused on Google Practices for Search & Android

The Federal Trade Commission told reporters Wednesday that a probe the commission launched against Google in June is focusing its investigation into the company’s search practices and the way that it ties Android devices to its own services.

Citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal reported that the FTC has been questioning Google about whether or not the company prevents its hardware licensees from using services from other companies that compete with Google’s own services.

This is a curious question in that Google makes Android available for free for the sole purpose of moving its own products and the company’s lucrative search business into the mobile space in order to avoid being locked out in the future by other companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, or even RIM.

The “free” part of Android is paid for by the presence of those Google services, and Google has worked hard to make sure that its OEMs don’t sub out Google search for, say, Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Be that as it may, as The Mac Observer reported in June, FTC attorneys have also been looking into the company’s search engine practices. Specifically, they have been interested in whether or not Google is granting its own services preferential treatment at the expense of competing services.

For instance, Yelp has complained that Google not only lists results for its own Places service above Yelp’s, but that it even uses information from Yelp while doing so. The screenshot below is an example of just such a complaint.

Google Search Screenshot

Screenshot of Google search results
(Click the image to see a larger, more readable version)

For its part, Google said that it was cooperating with FTC investigators. In a statement, the company said, “We understand that with success comes scrutiny. We’re happy to answer any questions they have about our business.”