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Google's secret proposals leaked as dismay over EU antitrust inquiry grows

Jennifer Baker | Nov. 7, 2013
The latest proposals give Google less room for maneuver, but rivals are still not happy

"It took Google almost four years to come up with an antitrust remedy proposal, which would only benefit Google," said Michael Weber from Hot Maps, one of the original complainants. "The search giant's allegation that complainants are obstructionists for rejecting this, is a vivid example of Googlespeak. Their wait-and-see attitude gave them a few more years of time to abuse their dominant position, at the cost of everyone on the Web."

The European Commission has been investigating Google for three years over allegations that it has abused its dominant market position. The company is accused of prioritizing its services in search results, scraping content from rival websites, tying advertisers in with exclusivity clauses in contracts and making it difficult to move advertising campaigns away from its sites.

Google has said it will eliminate these clauses for five years and make it easier for advertisers to move their campaigns to rival services. To address the content-scraping issue, Google has offered to create an opt-out option for websites; this will also let sites opt out of Google content scraping for sub-domains and other specific parts of a website's content. The new text says this will have "no material adverse impact on crawling and indexing of the site or its appearance and ranking in Generic Search Results or AdWords Results."

Finally, in the 94-page document, which includes sample images and layouts, Google has undertaken to promote three links to rival search sites for any searches that generate revenue-earning service results from Google.

Meanwhile U.S. public interest organization Consumer Watchdog has challenged Google to make its latest proposals public. In a letter to Google CEO Larry Page the group said it would publish the proposed deal if the search giant failed to do so by 5 p.m. local time Wednesday.

"Just this once, Mr Page, treat your company's data the same way you treat everyone else's: Organize the information and 'make it universally accessible and useful,'" wrote John Simpson, the group's privacy project director.


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