Google faces a potential FTC complaint and possible investigation over its “Search plus Your World” integration of Google+ into regular search results, with at least one US privacy watchdog saying it is weighing filing an objection with the government agency. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) flagged up its concerns with the new search system earlier today, arguing it makes users’ personal data more accessible than before. “Users can opt out of seeing personalized search results,” the group pointed out, “but cannot opt out of having their information found through Google search.”
“We believe this is something that the FTC needs to look at” EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg told the LA Times about the watchdog’s interest in the search tweaks. He frames the changes as an attempt by Google to use its privileged position in the search market to bolster its relatively fledgeling social network, with Facebook an obvious rival.
“Google is an entrenched player trying to fight off its challenger Facebook by using its market dominance in a separate sector … I think that should trouble people” Marc Rotenberg, EPIC
Shortly after Google announced the modifications, Twitter expressed its own concerns that the filtering would mean content shared in tweets would prove more difficult to find. Google responded, ironically, on Google+ this morning, saying that the company was “a bit surprised by Twitter’s comments about Search plus Your World, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer and since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions.” The agreement cited was around the integration of live tweets in relevant Google search results, which ended in mid-2011.
Google is already facing the possibility of an FTC investigation over concerns that it is using its position in search to promote its other services rather than those of other companies.