Feeds

FTC turns screws on Payola search

Search engine vendors told to clean up act

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.