FairSearch - for the right result

Hey Google, Time To Open Up

For a company that champions openness and transparency (see the 4,400-word essay it published on “The Meaning of Open”), Google hasn’t really lived up to its own ideals in fighting off those who raise serious concerns that Google could abuse its dominance in online search to harm competition and consumers – whether in online travel if allowed to acquire ITA Software, or more broadly.

Last month, Google deployed employee Matt Cutts to D.C. with a secret 89-page presentation to explain to staff at the Federal Trade Commission, on Capitol Hill and to reporters and consumer groups why all those pesky complaints about its black box search algorithms are really just a bunch of hooey (oh, and why regulators should adopt a hands-off policy when it comes to antitrust and Google).

You can read more about it at the Washington Post’s blog Post Tech. But because it must be a really convincing 89 pages worth of commentary explaining why Joe Public and policymakers should just trust Google – apparently Google doesn’t think it would withstand public scrutiny. To our knowledge, Google hasn’t publicly released the presentation. Perhaps that’s because the veracity of past presentations it’s made have been picked apart (see here for example).

Today, Consumer Watchdog wrote to Sens. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“We are deeply distressed to learn that President Obama is meeting with Google CEO Eric Schmidt today behind closed doors as the Justice Department is poised to render its decision on Google’s acquisition of ITA, which has caused deep concern within in the travel industry about Google’s ability to drive out competitors in the online airline booking industry.”

How’s that for openness and transparency, Mr. Schmidt? Consumer Watchdog points out that Schmidt has refused to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, even while dispatching Cutts to D.C. for closed-door meetings.