The Texas Attorney General has begun a probe into Google page rank – the first by a US agency into the technology at the core of Google’s search business.
The anti-trust inquiry – one of a mounting number of probes into the tech giant - will examine the fairness of Google’s search results, the firm’s deputy general counsel Don Harrison revealed in a blog post Friday.
Harrison said the Texan AG was seeking information about three companies, including UK price comparison site Foundem, whose complaint is now under investigation by European anti-trust authorities.
Foundem was backed by ICOMP, a Microsoft-funded industry group, while the other two firms – Source Tool/Trade Comet and myTriggers – had employed former Microsoft antitrust attorneys.
Harrison said Google’s search technology aimed to satisfy “users, not websites.
“Given that not every website can be at the top of the results, or even appear on the first page of our results, it’s unsurprising that some less relevant, lower quality websites will be unhappy with their ranking,” he said.
But Gary Reback, a lawyer at Silicon Valley firm Carr & Ferrell who has worked with small companies on antitrust cases against Google, called for a federal antitrust probe into the company.
“This whole issue of how Google treats these vertical competitors, that’s a big issue now,” he told the New York Times.
In other legal developments, Google faces a damages bill after losing a German court case over the posting of copyrighted material to YouTube, while it has settled a privacy lawsuit over the ham-fisted launch of its Buzz social network last year for $8.5 million (€6.5 million)