Feeds

FTC tells Google and pals: Not labelling ads properly is 'deceptive'

Yahoo!, Microsoft et al told to distinguish money hits from search stuff

The essential guide to IT transformation

Google and other search engine providers have been told by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to distinguish adverts from results on their services.

In an update to its decade-old guidelines, the FTC - which at the start of this year cleared Google of biasing its search results to nobble its Stateside competitors - said its consumer protection staff had fired off letters to search engine outfits.

The missive told them to clarify to users what are paid search results and other forms of advertising from that of natural search results, which significantly don't make the likes of Google any money.

The watchdog was heavily criticised by Google's rivals for failing to take action against the company's alleged dominance of the search market in the US.

A separate investigation in the European Union remains a hotbed of discussion in Brussels and tomorrow (27 June) has been set as the deadline for the market test of Google's "remedy" proposals to the Commission coming to an end.

So the timing of the FTC's decision to write to search engine providers is undoubtedly interesting - given that many of Google's rivals have complained long and hard about how Mountain View places results on its service. Critics have long argued that the company gifts prominent positions to those paying for ads in a move that - it is claimed - stifles competing businesses.

The US regulator argued that a search engine's failure to adhere to the FTC's guidance by setting apart ads from natural search results "could be a deceptive practice".

It continued:

The updated guidance emphasizes the need for visual cues, labels, or other techniques to effectively distinguish advertisements, in order to avoid misleading consumers, and it makes recommendations for ensuring that disclosures commonly used to identify advertising are noticeable and understandable to consumers.

The commission said it had written to Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft's Bing, AOL, Ask.com, Blekko and DuckDuckGo. Additionally, 17 other companies that specialise in vertical search markets such as shopping and travel also received the letter from the FTC.

Social media, mobile apps, and voice assistant services all fall under the guidelines, too, the watchdog added.

"The guidance advises that regardless of the precise form that search takes now or in the future, paid search results and other forms of advertising should be clearly distinguishable from natural search results," it said. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
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
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
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.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
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.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.