The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has released a statement on Wednesday in which it firmly backs the result of its 2013 investigation into Google business practices, and also addresses recent allegation made by the Wall Street Journal, according to which the investigation was marred by ties between the Silicon Valley giant and high-ranking FTC and White House personnel.
Signed by FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez and commissioners Julie Brill and Maureen K. Ohlhausen, the statement enforced the investigation’s original outcome, while also denying any claims questioning its integrity. The FTC had investigated Google in 2013 for presumed anticompetitive business practices, but a unanimous vote from its commissioners concluded that it was not the case.
However, the FTC accidentally leaked an antitrust report concerning the investigation to the Wall Street Journal last week, sending it instead of a Freedom of Information Act request. The document stated that Google had used data and content from rival businesses without their consent, and resolved to threaten them with exclusion from their widely-used search engine when complaints were raised.
“The Commission works vigorously to protect consumers and promote competition in the marketplace and does not hesitate to act on the behalf of consumers when the facts warrant an enforcement action. In fact, on the same day that it closed the search investigation, the Commission settled a complaint alleging that Google’s conduct with regard to certain standard essential patents constituted unfair methods of competition under the FTC Act” – excerpt from the FTC statement
However, a new report surfaced this week from the Wall Street Journal which said that Google employees have met with high-ranking White House and FTC officials over 230 times during the Obama administration, including numerous times during “critical phases” of the FTC’s investigation.
The FTC addressed the WSJ allegation as being a “misleading narrative” which has no solid facts to question the integrity of its investigation, while also describing the meetings with Google execs as being “disparate” and “unrelated”. The Committee then went on to apologize for the disclosure of the report, which also contained what should have been confidential information about the Silicon Valley company’s finances and business measures, stating that it is taking thorough steps to avoid this happening in the future.
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