Senators Echo FTC Probe of Google

Google market power raises questions of bias

Google's lengthy answers to a Senate antitrust subcommittee about its dominance in search just didn't add up for Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisc. and ranking Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who shared their results of their investigtation into Google's practices in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission Monday.

The letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz is more bad news for Google, which revealed in June that it was under investigation by the FTC for potential abuses of its search dominance.

There is little argument that Google's market share in search is unmatched, with a 65-70 percent share in Internet search and a 95 percent share in mobile search, according to StatCounter Global Stats.

"Given the scope of Google's market power in general Internet search, a key question is whether Google is using its market power to steer users to its own web products or secondary services and discriminating against other websites with which it competes," Kohl and Lee wrote, Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights.

During the Subcommittee's hearing in September, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was grilled for more than an hour. He also submitted in November about 70 pages of written responses to questions from the subcommittee. Based on the subcommittee's own investigation, Kohl and Lee are skeptical of Google's claim that it can be both an unbiased search engine at the same time it owns web-bases services from which it derives substantial ad revenue.  

"Google has a strong incentive to bias its search results in favor of its own offerings," the Senators wrote. "Rather than act as an honest broker of unbiased search results, Google's search results appear to favor the company's own web products and services."

A Google spokesman said the letter to the FTC was "customary. "We appreciate that the committee reserved judgment as we continue to cooperate with the FTC. We are committed to competing fairly on the Internet's level playing field."