After changing its search features earlier this week Google got all sorts of Internet complaints, now it's being hit with an actual complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who has filed a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. Google's already facing anti-trust investigations from the FTC. But is this new social search anti-competitive? Well, the following reasons are compelling enough for EPIC.
Google favors itself over other social networks. There's no doubt Google favors its own product over other competitors. Social network rival, Twitter has come out publicly against the changes, which surfaces Google+ results along-side search results. "Incorporating search results rom Google+ into ordinary search results allows Google to promote its own social network by leveraging its dominance in the search engine market," writes EPIC in the complain to the FTC.
The new search pushes down advertisers. Another new feature of search is that Google suggests other Google+ users to follow along with relevant search results. A search for music surfaces the Google+ profiles for Britney Spears and Snoop Dogg, for example. Not only does Google give preference to Google+ over Facebook or Twitter, it also replaces valuable advertising space reserved for non-Google companies with these Google+ profile suggestions, which show up on the right hand column of the screen, as you can see below.
Google's favoring its content even though it's not the best. We all know Google+ isn't the most popular social network on the Internet block. It has yet to prove itself as anything but an experiment at this point. Yet, Google has decided to give that content preferential treatment, something the company looks down upon. Just last week it punished itself for gaming the system -- Google tries extra hard to make sure the best content appears at the top of search. The Google+ stuff seems to go against those policies.
The changes make personal data more accessible. Things posted on Google+ could get reshared with the world in a much more public way than the original posted had intended. The new search "breaks down a very clear coceptual divide between things that are private and things that are public online," New York Law School professor James Grimmelmman told EPIC.
Eric Schmidt told Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan that he doesn't think the new set-up favors Google. And has said that he doesn't think it favors G+ over other social networks because Twitter and Facebook haven't granted Google permission to give their sites the same search treatment. Twitter begs to differ, calling the new search "bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users." Though it's unclear if the FTC will do anything about this, there is one thing angry searchers can do: Switch to Bing.