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FTC Investigating Google Search, Ad Businesses

A  Federal Trade Commission spokesperson confirmed Friday that the agency is investigating Google, but would not say why.

Google confirmed on its policy blog early Friday morning that the FTC had begun a "review of its business," though it said it was unclear as to just why. According to a source, in an SEC filing Google said it had been subpoenaed and the issues were its search and advertising businesses. The FTC spokesperson would not discuss the subject of the inquiry or confirm the subpoena.

Google said one thing was clear: "Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow. No matter what you're looking for -- buying a movie ticket, finding the best burger nearby, or watching a royal wedding -- we want to get you the information you want as quickly as possible. Sometimes the best result is a link to another website. Other times it's a news article, sports score, stock quote, a video or a map," the company said.

"We respect the FTCs' process and will be working with them (as we have with other agencies) over the coming months to answer questions about Google and our services," Google said.

Some company critics have pointed to Google's control over where companies and ads rank in searches as comparable to the ISP control of Internet on and off ramps that the government regulated against in the FCC network neutrality rules.

For its part, Google says it is simply doing what is best for the consumer and providing the most relevant responses as rapidly as possible. "We make hundreds of changes to our algorithms every year to improve your search experience. Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results," said the company on its blog. "Today, when you type 'weather in Chicago' or 'how many feet in a mile' into our search box, you get the answers directly-often before you hit 'enter.' And we're always trying to figure out new ways to answer even more complicated questions just as clearly and quickly. Advertisements offer useful information, too, which is why we also work hard to ensure that our ads are relevant to you." It added that it is always clear "what is an ad and what isn't."

The FTC back in 2009 investigated the overlapping board memberships of Google and Apple, eventually commending board member Arthur Levinson, who held seats on both boards, to resign from Apple.

Back in March, Google settled an FTC charge that it had violated its privacy policies when it launched social network Google Buzz. But the FTC approved Google's purchase of DoubleClick back in 2007 signaling no conflict in combining the search powerhouse and online ad company.