Congressman: Google FTC probe results were leaked illegally

News of the FTC's investigation into the search giant's business practices leaked a day before being made public. Now Rep. Darrell Issa is demanding an inquiry into the leaks.

Google settled a major win last week when the Federal Trade Commission announced that after a nearly two-year investigation into the Web giant's business practices the company was absolved of making major changes to its search product.

However, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, seems to believe there was something fishy about the announcement.

The official announcement was made on January 3, but several news sources, including Bloomberg, Reuters, and Politico, got a hold of the results of the investigation the day before it was supposed to be made public. Technically, it is illegal for the commission to share the results of a probe before being made public. Issa is now calling for an investigation into the news leaks.

"Nonpublic information about developments in the investigation has been inappropriately shared with the media. It is believed that the Commission may be contributing to, or is the source of, this information," Issa wrote in a letter on January 3 to the FTC, which was obtained by Mashable. "This is of concern because such leaks are prohibited by law and counterproductive to the investigative process."

Issa said that "unnamed and anonymous sources" provided the media with the investigation results. "To discover the source of the leaks as well as the depth of nonpublic information disclosed, I request your office initiate an investigation as soon as possible," he wrote.

The 20-month probe into Google's business practices focused mostly on the way Google displayed search results, which critics said favored the company's own services over those of its competitors. The FTC also examined Google decisions on technology licensing, which some argued were anticompetitive. As part of the settlement, the search giant agreed to voluntarily change the way it uses other Web sites' data.

Google still faces a separate inquiry from European Union antitrust investigators. The investigation, launched in 2010, began after rival companies alleged that Google was abusing its dominance in search. The European Commission said last week that the FTC settlement wouldn't affect its own decision-making process.

CNET contacted the FTC and Google for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.

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