Google in talks with US authorities to end probe into 'dominance in search results'
Google and US authorities are reportedly discussing a deal that would end nearly two years of investigation into claims that the Internet search giant intentionally manipulates search results to harm competitors.
The ongoing talks between Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Jon Leibowitz and top Google executives are focusing on less controversial issues, such as how the company uses patents and how it displays comments collected from other Internet services, said people familiar with the talks.
According to the Washington Post, those people said that although allegations of search bias could reemerge should the talks collapse, they are not central to the discussions.
The paper said that the development has angered a broad group of Google competitors and critics who have called on the FTC to engage in a high-profile legal battle against the search giant to curb its sprawling power in the digital economy.
"The buzzards are circling for that, and there's just going to be massive resistance if they try to do that," the paper quoted Silicon Valley attorney Gary Reback, who represents several companies that have complained about Google, as saying.
"If a settlement were to be proposed that didn't include search, the institutional integrity of the FTC would be at issue," he added.
According to the Post, allegations of search bias turn on the increasingly complex way in which Google displays its results.
Once focused mainly on helping users find useful links to other sites, the company's results now feature a heavy diet of paid content that appears in shaded sections at the top of screens and along the right-hand side, the paper said.
A "universal search box," also placed above traditional search results, often carries paid links to consumer products or flights, it added.