Since April when Bloomberg News reported that the Federal Trade Commission was contemplating a full-blown antitrust investigation of Google, people who follow the Internet giant have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It did on Thursday with the report in the Wall Street Journal that the five-member Commission is about to serve Google with civil subpoenas — known as Civil Investigative Demands — about its business practices.
The European Union and the State of Texas are already investigating, but word of the FTC probe raises the issue to a new level of intensity. It also makes it clear that millions of dollars spent on lobbying and the hobnobbing by Google executives at White House State Dinners will not prevent a long needed investigation.
This investigation should have been launched years ago. The FTC has been missing in action for some time, but better late than never. There are, of course, tech pundits out there mocking this announcement, suggesting that Google won’t be nearly as powerful as it is now by the time this investigation has been completed. Many have cited Microsoft as an example.
But part of the reason Microsoft’s influence diminished is precisely because of the antitrust probe and subsequent antitrust lawsuit. The very existence of this probe should serve as a check on Google’s power, and that is a very good thing.
Consumer Watchdog is asking the White House to keep its distance and not meddle with the investigation and other existing (but smaller) probes of Google’s business practices that are already going on.