If you use Google Shopping to find and compare items you'd like to buy, you could find fewer results in future searches. Google said today (Jan. 3) it would allow website owners to block their pages from specialized search results in a response to concerns from the Federal Trade Commission.
Google has been under investigation by the FTC for the past nine months for possibly violating antitrust laws by manipulating search results to its own benefit. The FTC found that, while Google did not violate antitrust laws, it may have stifled its competitors. The FTC has closed the case, and Google has volunteered to change several of its practices the commission felt were unfair to others.
But what may be fair to websites could turn into a headache for regular folks looking for a good deal on a pair of skis, a hotel in Aspen or simply a place to grab a sandwich for lunch.
Google agreed to let Web page owners opt out of Google's specialized search products, such as local, travel and shopping, while still appearing in standard Google Search. Previously, they could only opt out of Google Search.
The change comes from the FTC's request to Google to refrain from "misappropriating online content" from websites like shopping and travel for use in Google's own specialized searches. The commissioners concern: If Google can act as a hub for certain services, and websites have no way to opt out, site creators (and their funding sources) might have little incentive to launch a new site in the face of Google's dominance.
For instance, a hotel-review website may not want its reviews posted on a Google travel page because it fears that people who use Google's travel search would have no reason to visit the original site. However, some websites gain traffic from their inclusion in Google services. In the future, the decision will be left up to the site owner whether or not to be included in search results.
Google also agreed to allow advertisers to use data from their Google Adwords campaigns for running ads on other services. Google will also loosen its hold on certain patents. It will license patents that are considered standard for mobile device software development, while following new FTC rules for resolving patent disputes before filing lawsuits.