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Monday, March 14, 2011
U.S.Congress To Examine Google's Search Ranking Algorithm

U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, is seeking congressional hearings on Google?s business practices.

The agenda for the new session of Congress includes a discussion related to "Online Markets" and "Internet Search Issues."

In recent years, the dominance over Internet search of the world's largest search engine, Google, has increased and Google has increasingly sought to acquire e-commerce sites in myriad businesses. In this regard, the Congress will closely examine allegations raised by e-commerce websites that compete with Google that they are being treated unfairly in search ranking, and in their ability to purchase search advertising.

Senator Michael S. Lee (R-UT) also called for the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee to conduct an oversight hearing on Google. Lee joins Herb Kohl in encouraging hearings on the business practices of the dominant search firm.

In a letter to Kohl, Lee noted that those who follow the tech industry, as well as those responsible for enforcing antitrust laws, have concerns that Google could be acting to harm competition.

"The powerful position Google occupies in the general search arena creates myriad opportunities for anticompetitive behavior," Lee writes. "The Deputy Director for Antitrust within the Bureau of Economics at the Federal Trade Commission, Howard Shelanski, recently observed that a 'hypothetical search engine' with various 'scale and network economies' might become a 'must have' for consumers and thereby more effectively engage in ?anticompetitive discrimination.'"

"Google's position as the preeminent search engine may be abused so as to disadvantage competing vertical search sites to the detriment of advertisers and internet users," Lee writes.

Lee adds that Google's acquisition of personal data through searches and its many products, such as Gmail, Google Checkout, Google Books, and Google Web History, couldpresent serious privacy issues.

"Google's powerful position as an Internet gatekeeper reduces the company's incentive to compete with other search engines by providing enhanced privacy protection for consumers."

"As the Internet continues to grow in importance to the national economy, businesses and consumers, the Subcommittee will strive to ensure that this sector remains competitive, that Internet search is fair to its users and customers, advertisers have sufficient choices, and that consumers? privacy is guarded," U.S. Senator Herb Kohl said.

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