Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Google, Fresh From Destroying Journalism, Now Co-Opting The FTC

Posted by Phoenix Woman on November 22, 2012

This is ominous:

President Obama announced Monday that he had nominated George Mason University professor Joshua Wright for the U.S. Federal and Trade Commission. Wright has been selected to replace a Republican on the committee, and as such, it will come as no surprise that Wright has a long track record of advocating against anti-trust enforcement and the heavy hand of government.

But what seems to be overlooked in much of the coverage of his selection is that Wright has a history of receiving funding for his work from groups supported by Google. And of course, as we know, Google has had some ongoing tussles with the FTC, and will likely have more down the road.

I first came across Wright’s name earlier this year as part of research for a column I wrote examining the various ways Google and Microsoft sought to engage third parties such as lawyers, pundits, academics, and communications firms, to influence public opinion and policy. There is little requirement to disclose the money that goes toward wielding this soft influence.

As Jane Hamsher said earlier this week, this didn’t bode well for the upcoming antitrust settlement. And she was very likely right:

Bloomberg is reporting today that the FTC may take a dive on exercising oversight of Google’s government-protected monopoly:

Federal Trade Commission officials are unsure they have enough evidence to sue Google successfully under antitrust laws for giving its own services top billing and pushing down the offerings of rivals, said the people, who asked for anonymity because the discussions aren’t public. Regulators are also looking at whether the ranking system’s benefits to consumers outweigh any harm suffered by rivals including NexTag Inc. and Kayak Software Corp. (KYAK), the people said.

Right.  Because when you push your competitors’ results (and prices) down in the search rankings, consumers always win.  (?)

Time to squawk to your local media while you still can. Also time to start using other search engines, like Duck Duck Go, Bing or Ixquick.

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3 Responses to “Google, Fresh From Destroying Journalism, Now Co-Opting The FTC”

  1. Charles II said

    I’m not sure I see how Google could be sued for anti-trust on the basis of how it does its rankings. They amount to a monopolist under any pre-1980s definition simply because they have so much market power, but jiggering search rankings is like NBC not mentioning that CBS broke a story.

    As for Wright, all one has to hear is the words “George Mason University” to figure out he’s in the tank.

    (Although ironically HNN, which does some reasonable stuff, came out of GMU as well.)

  2. Stormcrow said

    Sorry, PW, but there’s just no way a serious research techie is going to use any other search engine at this particular point.

    This is a matter of engineering fitness, which will trump every other consideration if you want to get your own work done as effectively as possible.

    If you’re a penetration tester footprinting a system, Google is your tool of choice, period, end of sentence. People in information security learned this half a dozen years ago; look up the string “google hacking” in the “books” section of amazon.com.

    If you’re looking for user-level reviews of a piece of computing hardware, you use Google. No other search engine I’m aware of can let you bind your search to a domain; only seeing results from the domain you specify. And newegg.com doesn’t purge pages of equipment they no longer sell, they just unlink them from their internal search. But you can still find them – and the user reviews they contain – by binding your Google search to “newegg.com”. Tell me someplace else where I can do this. And someplace else that had its search spiders crawling newegg.com’s public links 7 or 8 years ago.

    Want only pages updated within the last 2 months? Or the last 190 days? You don’t have a choice; you have to use Google.

    PW, I could go on. I can cite you half a dozen book about working the Google search engine written in the last six years, of which I own copies of at least 4. And two of these are considered canon if you work in IT Security.

    When and if Bing, or Ixquick, or somebody else’s engine, can match this scope and flexibility, you’ll see a meaningful quantity of mindshare migrating away from Google. Not before.

    This asymmetry does not carry over to Google Chrome, BTW. You cannot harden Chrome as a effectively as you can Firefox against malicious mobile code, because the basic design model is incompatible with Noscript. This issue surfaced about 3 year ago and probably will never be fixed; the flaw is baked into the basic Chrome design.

    That’s why I simply will not use Chrome to browse URLs that I think may be weaponised by competent criminals. It’s just too risky.

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