FTC Investigates Google for Promoting Search Engine on Android Phones

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Regulators at the Federal Trade Commission are eyeing another investigation against Google, according to the New York Times. The FTC is apparently concerned that Google may be unfairly promoting its search engine on their popular Android mobile operating system.

For the most part, Google’s operating system is given away freely to phone makers. But, if a large handset manufacture, such as Samsung, wants to sell phones with Android out of the box, the Times explains that they have to bundle it with Google’s applications such as Gmail and the almighty search engine. This bundling has raised the FTC’s eyebrows as potentially anti-competitive.

Google is no stranger to threatening regulators. In the United States, their powerful lobbying presence has generally been successful. In 2012, they escaped a massive (potentially multi-million-dollar) FTC case for the way they bundled their services together. It’s no coincidence that since 2013, Google ranks as one of the largest lobbyists in D.C., according to OpenSecrets.org.

Google argues that their services are meant to work together. For instance, Google can serve better search results if they know where you’re searching. So, if a user recently used maps while traveling, they should probably turn up search results for restaurants outside of the user’s typical city.

Eventually, Google wants Android to function as a kind of “cybernetic friend,” which can predict a user’s desires before they even know what to ask. This means that it’s beneficial for them to pre-install and bundle all of their services together into a neat package.

Thus far, Google been successful at both packaging more of their products together and fighting off the feds. But, they may not win every fight. This could be a costly battle—one that could cost consumers new products.


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