Wyden Presses Google on IAC Relationship

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is seeking information from Google about its relationship with Barry Diller's IAC/InteractiveCorp. and others over paying companies like IAC to change default search engine settings in consumer Web browsers to generate traffic referral fees.

That came in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Wyden has been investigating the practice and says that a request back in February for a briefing from Google on its relationship with IAC and other browser extension companies did not result in a briefing, or a response to a series of such requests over the succeeding several months.

Wyden cited a Wall Street Journal story that according to a Google internal audit, the company's own investigation concluded that IAC's behavior was "egregious" and its web extensions should be removed from the Chrome Web Store, but that had not happened.

Wyden said Google's continued financial relationship with IAC raised serious questions that he wanted answered.

Among those questions are how much IAC spent on Google ads directing users to download its extensions, how many extension installations did that generate, and what percentage of Google's search traffic comes from users whose default search engine has been chosen for them by a web browser, operating system or extension that Google has paid for.

An IAC spokesperson said the company had no comment on the letter, but did comment on the larger issue of the internal audit and what it said was Google's effort to "quash" their browser business.

"Google has chosen not to share its audit of our products or the results with us, only the Wall Street Journal," saids the spokesperson. "Google exercises significant control over what we do with these products. Last year we collaborated closely with Google on an extensive review and approval of our entire Chrome product line — including how products are advertised and installed, down to the font size—and all our products were again confirmed and approved this year in conjunction with their renewal of our partnership agreement.

"Google has taken hundreds of millions of dollars from us to advertise and distribute these products in the Chrome Store. There’s nothing new here — Google has used their position to reduce our browser business to the last small corner of the internet, which they’re now seeking to quash."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.