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Sources suggest new FTC antitrust focus on Google+

More grist for the regulatory mill

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may be expanding its antitrust investigations to include the increasing integration of Google+ into Mountain View‘s search engine business.

Additional probes into the links between Google and its fledgling social network are being ordered to assess to what - if any - level Mountain View is favoring its own services in the search engine market, two sources told Bloomberg. The FTC declined to comment on the matter.

“We believe that our improvements to search will benefit consumers,” Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google, said in an statement - while declining to comment on any investigation. “The laws are designed to help consumers benefit from innovation, not to help competitors.”

On Tuesday Google announced it was integrating Google+ and other public social media data into its search results, with its “Search plus your World” initiative. The move sparked debate after a complaint from Twitter that Google was "damaging to the internet" and led to calls from the Electronic Privacy Information Center for the FTC to intervene.

The FTC is already looking into Google ranking systems to see if there is any favoritism going on in the results, and has reportedly widened the initial investigation to include the effect of Android on the mobile operating system market.

Mountain View is facing a regulatory barrage from Congress at the moment; the company is under intense scrutiny on antitrust issues, and seems to be on the losing side of a battle over legislation like Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). As El Reg has pointed out, Google has a rough road ahead, and it seems likely that the pressure isn’t going to let up any time soon. ®

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