Twelve! Count 'em up. In light of the Federal Trade Commission's forthcoming antitrust investigation into Google, the search behemoth is reportedly hiring a dream team of D.C. lobbying might, including Akin, Gump; Bingham; Capitol Legislative Strategies; Chesapeake Group; Crossroads Strategies; Gephardt Group; Holland & Knight; Normandy Group; Prime Policy; The First Group; The Madison Group; and the Raben Group, reports The Hill. "We have a strong story to tell about our business and we’ve sought out the best talent we can find to help tell it," a Google spokesperson tells the newspaper. Of course you do, Google. So what does the Internet search company really need twelve independent firms for? Here's a look at the regulatory hurdles that could be keeping K Street busy in the coming months:
The FTC investigation As we reported previously, the FTC's investigation could apply to any number of Google's businesses, but primarily, it's concerned with its core business: search and advertising. It's inspired by the complaints of Internet businesses whining that Google privileges its own web services in search results and downgrades the results from smaller competing firms. "By making a site more or less likely to rise to the top of its search results, Google theoretically could affect how much traffic a Web site got and therefore how much it could charge for advertising," reported The New York Times last week. A major group pushing for this is Fair Search, a coalition of Internet companies including Microsoft, Expedia and Trip Advisor "taking a stand against Google's unfair practices."
Easing Pressure off Larry and Eric In a June 10 letter, Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl and Senator Mike Lee of Utah threatened to subpoena CEO Larry Page and executive chairman Eric Schmidt for a Senate hearing regarding the search giant's dominance. "We would very much prefer to work this out by agreement rather than needing to resort to more formal procedures," read the letter. So far, the company has resisted and could likely use a hand convincing these two distinguished legislators that this really isn't worth anyone's time.
Europe Earlier this month, European Union data-protection regulators announced a probe investigating Facebook's facial recognition technology to see if it violates privacy rules. "Tags of people on pictures should only happen based on people’s prior consent and it can’t be activated by default," a Luxembourg official said. Hopefully these lobbyists have international experience.
Pirated content Another complaint is Google's involvement with bootlegger sites. "Google supplied sites trafficking in pirated movies search advertising keywords such as 'bootleg movie download,' writes Ira Brodsky at The Daily Caller. According to The Hill some are "accusing the search giant of profiting off ads placed on sites that host pirated content."
Android In May, Google was accused of tracking the geolocation of its Android phone customers. As it stands, Google has denied those accusations.