Google says trustbuster concerns are 'unclear'

In a reply to the Federal Trade Commission's review, the Web giant says it remains committed to doing what's best for its customers.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
2 min read

Google has posted a response to the U.S. government's antitrust inquiry into the company, somewhat defiantly suggesting that the investigation is misguided.

"It's still unclear exactly what the FTC's concerns are, but we're clear about where we stand," Google Fellow Amit Singhal wrote in the blog post. "Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow."

Singhal laid out a handful of principles that guide Google, everything from doing what's best for the user to being transparent.

"These are the principles that guide us, and we know they'll stand up to scrutiny," Singhal wrote.

The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that trustbusters are planning to serve Google with civil subpoenas as they probe Google's market power in search advertising.

Singhal, one of the leaders of Google's search business, acknowledged that the company yesterday received "formal notification from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission" that the commission is reviewing Google's business. And he wrote that Google has "respect" for the FTC process and that the company intends to work with the agency as it has with other agencies "to answer questions about Google and our services."

Then, Singhal went into a long defense of Google's business, repeatedly offering examples of how it helps consumers find information they need, be it info on "buying a movie ticket, finding the best burger nearby, or watching a royal wedding." Sometimes the information comes directly from Google and sometimes it's at another site, to which Google's search results offers links.

Singhal's most spirited defense comes in his discussion about Google's offerings being "free" and available on the "open Internet." He notes that customers can quickly choose to use rival search engines, mobile applications, and social networks.

And Singhal notes that one of Google's guiding principles is "loyalty, not lock-in." That goes right to the heart of the likely antitrust concerns. Regulators are typically concerned about monopolists using their market power to lock customers into products, making it difficult to use competing services. But Singhal wrote that Google doesn't operate that way.

"We firmly believe you control your data, so we have a team of engineers whose only goal is to help you take your information with you," Singhal writes. "We want you to stay with us because we're innovating and making our products better--not because you're locked in."

Updated at 10:05 a.m. PT with details and analysis.