Feeds

FTC turns screws on Payola search

Search engine vendors told to clean up act

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Federal regulators in the US have determined that several Internet-search engines are not properly informing Internet consumers when certain advertisers pay for a prominent placement in search results - which can give them a competitive "eyeball" advantage, unfair or otherwise.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is asking companies that maintain search engine sites to review their respective Websites to ensure that "any paid ranking search results are distinguished from non-paid results with clear and conspicuous disclosures". The FTC also made a similar recommendation for search engine service providers that offer "paid inclusion", a similar feature in which search engines freely mingle paid-listings with search results that are not paid.

Paid search results are an increasingly common form of advertising on the Internet. However it is still unclear to many Internet consumers whether the search results they get are promotions or gathered through more objective means such as automatic indexing technologies. A survey by the advocacy group Consumers Union found that 60% of Internet users were oblivious to the fact that certain search engines received fees to feature some Websites more prominently.

The recommendations can be seen as a delayed reaction to a complaint that was filed in July 2001 by a Portland, Oregon-based consumer-advocacy group called Commercial Alert, which asked the FTC to investigate whether several search sites were engaging in unfair or deceptive practices. The search sites under the spotlight included: AOL Time Warner Inc, Microsoft Corp, Ask Jeeves Inc's Direct Hit Technologies, iWon Inc, CMGI Inc's AltaVista Co, LookSmart (LOOK) Ltd, and Terra Lycos SA.

While the FTC's recommendations do not carry any legal compliance requirement, it can be seen as a first step towards cleaning up some of the dubious practices being followed by search engine firms by pushing them to delineate paid listings from search results.

© ComputerWire

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.