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Google head disputes that company thwarts rivals

September 21, 2011 7:42:47 PM PDT
Google is accused of abusing its enormous online influence. In Washington Google's CEO underwent quite a grilling by the Senate antitrust subcommittee.

Eric Schmidt was roughed up by several members of the committee, as he tried to explain why Google doesn't have an unfair monopoly.

Google's chairman says the company's corps principal is to serve the consumer.

"And one of the most important principals is solve the problem the consumer has," said Schmidt.

He said the company's dominance in the search engine market doesn't count for much because consumers can leave Google with the click. However, when Schmidt was asked if Google gave any preference to its own sites, like Google Maps, Google Finance, YouTube or Google pages, he seemed to equivocate.

"I'm not aware of any unnecessary or strange boosts or biases," said Schmidt.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., pounced on that comment.

"That seemed like a pretty fuzzy answer to me coming from the chairman. If you don't know, who does?" asked Franken.

Franken asked if Google uses content from other providers like Yelp to drive business to Google's sites.

"Again, I'll have to look, but I'm not aware of any," said Schmidt.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman testified that Google did rip off Yelp's content.

"And there was a lot of back and forth dialogue, 'We understand your concerns, we understand your concerns,' but in the end nothing happened," said Stoppelman.

And NexTag's CEO, Jeff Katz, said Google has changed.

"Today, Google doesn't play fair .Google rigs it's results," said Katz.

While almost all the discussion was on whether or not Google searches were unbiased, before the hearing, the consumer group Consumer Watchdog shot a video of their staff and volunteers stalking members of the committee as they walked to the hearing.

Consumer Watchdog's privacy chief, John M. Simpson, explained what that was all about.

"Most people just don't understand the way when they go online, virtually their every move is tracked as they go from one website to another website," said Simpson. "We thought one of the best ways to dramatize this was to do something that sort of in the real world might be considered stalking."

Simpson says he would've preferred the committee to talk more about the consumer privacy issue, but he added this hearing raised public awareness and in the end, Google will likely be as influenced as much by public opinion as by the threat of government regulation.

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