Is Google abusing its monopoly power to extend into new markets and crush its competitors? Do its search results favor its advertisers and their products? Could be.
The Federal Trade Commission has opened an antitrust investigation that goes to the heart of Google’s business: its core search and advertising systems that account for nearly all of Google’s $29 billion in annual revenue. The 12-year-old company faces similar charges in Europe.
According to a published report in the NY Times, this has the potential to evolve into “the biggest showdown between the United States government and a major technology company since the Microsoft antitrust trial that began in the late 1990s.” And it could take years to investigate. It is reported to be the most serious legal threat yet to the Internet giant.
At issue, according to FairSearch.org, an organization that represents Microsoft along with several online travel companies, is Google’s anti-competitive practices, include scraping and using other companies’ content without their permission, deceptive display of search results, manipulation of search results to favor Google’s products and the acquisition of competitive threats to Google’s dominance, practices deserving of full-scale investigations by U.S. antitrust authorities.
Google’s troubles don’t end there. Last week, U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Senators Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, requested Google provide one of their top execs to testify at an oversight hearing exploring the company’s business practices. It was speculated that Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt, who is close to the Obama Administration, might be subpoenaed if Google’s two top execs refuse to testify and send legal reps instead.
Google’s headaches are just beginning. At least three state attorneys general have started antitrust investigations into Google. Details of the investigations by the states of California, Ohio and New York were still in the early stages.
In last week’s column, we reported that Google wants to buy Admeld, a display advertising company. The Internet giant is willing to pay $400 million for it. Admeld helps Web publishers sell ad space in real time, including with Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange. But that deal is attracting scrutiny from the feds too.
What’s the word on Google’s Health? The patient didn’t survive.
Meanwhile, Google is not very “gay” about this.
Where all this mess ends up no one knows, but it is sure to be interesting. Stay tuned.
More frowns for Facebook
Facebook says it’ll hand over to a judge hundreds of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s freshman-year emails while at Harvard in a lawsuit brought by Paul Ceglia, who claims he’s entitled to half of Zuckerberg’s stake.
But the world’s most popular social networking site said last week in a court filing it won’t be doing so until after Ceglia submits the original contract and emails on which his complaint is based.
To date, Facebook is calling Ceglia’s bluff, as he has not produced original copies of the alleged contract or emails with Zuckerberg.
Planned violence against Israel using Apple App to organize
Israel’s Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein has asked Apple CEO Steve Jobs to remove the “3rd Intifada,” an application that shares information about planned violent protest activities against Israel.
In a letter to Jobs, Edelstein said the “3rd Intifada” also had opened a Facebook page three months ago “calling for an uprising against the State of Israel by use of lethal force, while using hateful material based on wild and groundless accusations”. Facebook removed the page because of its “harmful nature” and potential of leading to the loss of life.
“I believe Apple, as a pioneering and progressive company, places the values of liberty, freedom of expression and creativity as a guiding light,” Edelstein wrote. “Also, as a leader in its area, I am convinced that you are aware of this type of application’s ability to unite many toward an objective that could be disastrous.”
No word yet on what Apple intends to do about the app.
In other Apple news, Apple Inc. was green-lighted by the Federal Trade Commission to bid on more than 6,000 patents belonging to the bankrupt Nortel Networks Corp. that could be crucial to the future of smart phones and tablets.
What does this mean for you? The patents cover a wide range of technologies used in mobile phones, tablet computers, cellular infrastructure, online search and even social networking. Google’s in the running too, taking a bit bite of the, er, apple, with an opening bid of $900 million.
It’s the Lulz Boat
Lulz hackers aren’t letting up. After breaching the websites of the CIA, the U.S. Senate and Sony Corp., this international group of hackers broke into the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s computers last week. The LulzSec hackers downloaded and released hundreds of law enforcement files, which included personal info about officers, potentially compromising officer safety, and then bragged about it on Twitter.
LulzSec said it targeted the DPS because the hackers oppose Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 – a law that widens law enforcement’s ability to apprehend illegal aliens – and promises to release more classified documents and “embarassing (sic) personal details of military and law enforcement in an effort not just to reveal their racist and corrupt nature but to purposefully sabotage their efforts to terrorize communities fighting an unjust ‘war on drugs'”
The law is currently pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
THe Lulz Security website plays “The Love Boat” TV program theme when you land on its home page.
There’s more than a little concern that your tax filings also could be subject to public disclosure via hackers. A report indicates thousands of Internal Revenue Service databases that hold sensitive taxpayer information use outdated security software. Yep. Your tax dollars at work.
In a separate incident, a San Francisco man who hacked into AT&T accounts of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff at the time, could be slapped with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The hacker was found guilty of stealing personal data and emails from about 120,000 iPad users and will be sentenced Sept. 28.
Autistic child thrives with iPad
The iPad is changing the life of a young Nevada boy with autism.
According to Roger L. Simon of Pajamas Media TV, “Gage seemed like a quiet child who rarely showed interest in speaking or making eye contact. His mother, Gail, thought he was just a late bloomer until a Google search led her to autism. After his official diagnosis, Gage’s family tried using an iPad to help their son communicate. The results were ‘phenomenal.’ This inspired the Gilbert family to create The Gage Rufus Foundation to help treat children with autism as early as possible, move them to a point where they are contributors to society and reduce the massive cost to the state that looms if the condition is not treated.”
Bits & bytes
- Foursquare gets a financial boost. $50 million gets boxes checked on growth wish list. Foursquare, whose business grew 3,400 percent in 2010, has more than 10 million users.
- About 1 in 5 smart phone owners use location-based check-in apps.
- Go Daddy could go for $2 billion.
- Driverless cars? Yep. OK’d by Nevada’s Assembly Bill 511 for the roadways of Nevada. Humans need not apply.
The time capsule
“Professor Johnston often said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.” ~ Michael Crichton, “Timeline”
Now playing at the Princess Theater in Urbana, Ill.
Congratulations to WND readers Charles Nixon of Gamerco, N.M., and LS of Carson City, Nev., who were among the first to correctly guess actor Tommy Lee Jones in his portrayal of the baseball great Ty Cobb in the 1994 made-for-TV movie of the same name. The film also starred Robert Wuhl, Lolita Davidovich and Ned Bellamy.
Ty Cobb was called “the greatest baseball player of all time,” but this is not necessarily a baseball movie as much as it is a great bio-pic about manic depression that shows one of the different faces of mania. Based on a true story, Robert Wuhl plays sportswriter Al Stump, who is hired to write an authorized “autobiography” of Cobb. After spending time with Cobb, Stump is torn between writing the book that Cobb wants and writing the truth.
The quote was: “I had to fight all my life to survive. They were all against me, but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch.”
This week’s quote: “In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.”
Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!