Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/13/epic_letter_to_ftc_on_google_social_search/

EPIC asks FTC to probe Google's search biz tweak

It's a sticky social situation

By Kelly Fiveash

Posted in Law, 13th January 2012 12:22 GMT

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), as expected, has now written to the US Federal Trade Commission requesting that the watchdog investigates Google's search business.

The move follows Mountain View's decision to merge personal data collected via its social network Google+ with the company's search engine, which so far has received a cool response from industry observers.

Indeed, the carefully constructed Chocolate Factory is starting to resemble a sweaty indoor confectionery market peddling cheap sweets to the masses.

“Google’s business practices raise concerns related to both competition and the implementation of the Commission’s consent order,” EPIC said, in reference to a recent privacy settlement Google reached with the FTC.

In the missive (PDF), the privacy group claimed that: "Google's changes implicate concerns over whether the company prioritises its own content when returning search results."

EPIC added: "Incorporating results from Google+ into ordinary search results allow Google to promote its own social network by leveraging its dominance in the search engine market."

It asked the FTC to widen its ongoing investigation into Google's biz practices to include the company's recent tweak to its search estate.

By default, Google is opting everyone who uses its search engine into receiving "personal" results.

It's a move that might grab the attention of the FTC as well as the antitrust arm of the European Commission, which is conducting a separate formal investigation into allegations that Google has abused its dominant position in online search by illegally favouring, or gaming, its own services.

Users who don't want to see "personal results" pop up in Google search can switch it off here. ®