U.S. DOJ Asks About 'Search Fairness' in Google/ITA Deal As Rivals Protest

The U.S. Justice Department's review of Google's planned acquisition of airline ticketing software company ITA Software is focusing on making sure ITA's products remain available, even to Google's rivals, according to a source close to the deal.Reuters' reporting that Google and the DOJ are exploring licensing guarantees as part of a potential "settlement" that would […]

The U.S. Justice Department's review of Google's planned acquisition of airline ticketing software company ITA Software is focusing on making sure ITA's products remain available, even to Google's rivals, according to a source close to the deal.

Reuters' reporting that Google and the DOJ are exploring licensing guarantees as part of a potential "settlement" that would avoid litigation to block Google's intended purchase. The DOJ asked companies about "search fairness' (or "search neutrality") issues, which're also at the heart of the European antitrust investigation against Google. Before and after Google announced in August that it was going to a "second request," which essentially means that the antitrust probe of the deal would be more in depth.

Over the weekend, FairSearch.org came out with a statement opposing any such potential licensing deal:

Even If Google commits in a court order to license the best flight search technology, serious concerns would remain about the ability to administer and enforce such an order, and the potential for Google to circumvent it without detection. Moreover, such an order would not address other threatened harms from Google's proposed acquisition of ITA.

For e.g., Google also could abuse its general search dominance to steer users to its own or favored flight search products and could take proprietary technology developed by ITA licensees that resides on ITA servers. The members of Fairsearch.org continue to believe that the best way to protect consumers and competition from these and other threats is for the DOJ to block the deal and require Google to expand its travel search offerings through a less harmful means.

[tags]doj,ita,critics,travel search,search neutrality[/tags]

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