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Google Plus included in FTC probe

Google is being probed to see if it favours its own products over others, and now the probe includes the Google Plus social network.

Joe Svetlik Reporter
Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.
Joe Svetlik
2 min read

Does Google favour its own products over others in its search results? The Federal Trade Commission is investigating, and it's just extended the probe to include Google Plus, the search giant's social network, Reuters reports.

The charge is that Google manipulates results to prioritise its own results above others. It announced on Tuesday that posts from Google Plus will feature more prominently in results. So search for cheese, and any blog posts or photos from Google Plus involving cheese will be right up there near the top.

Bloomberg cited two sources claiming the probe had been extended to include Google Plus. The FTC declined to comment, while a Google spokesperson claimed the FTC had not asked about Google Plus, or given any indication it was looking into the search giant's social network.

But Reuters reports that the Electronic Privacy Information Center -- a public interest research centre focussing on civil liberties and privacy -- had asked the FTC to investigate Google's decision to include its own social network in search results.

A spokesperson for the Electronic Privacy Information Center said, "Google's business practices raise concerns related to both competition and the implementation of the Commission's consent order," referring to a settlement between the FTC and Google that established privacy safeguards for anyone who uses Google's services, as well as subjecting the search company to regular privacy audits.

Google said in a statement that including results from its social network would help people find what they were looking for, and essentially we could like it or lump it. "We believe that our improvements to search will benefit consumers by better surfacing social content, and the great thing about the openness of the Internet is that if users don't like our service they can easily switch to another site."

Back in September Google's Eric Schmidt denied claims the company favoured its own services over others in search results. 

Is Google too powerful? Or is this a case of people trying to chip away at a successful company? Let us know below, or over on our Facebook page.