Google steps up lobby effort to assuage regulatory concerns

12 Mag Google steps up lobby effort to assuage regulatory concerns

Total Telecom, By Scott Morrison, May 11, 2009

Internet giant aims to convince authorities that it embraces open source, enables other businesses to compete. Facing increased regulatory scrutiny, Google Inc. is stepping up efforts to convince policy makers, think tanks, academics, journalists, ad agencies and trade associations in the U.S. and Europe that the Internet search giant isn’t a threat to online competition.  Google’s aim is to convince policy makers that the company helps other businesses compete, and that it embraces open source technologies that make it easy for consumers and advertisers to easily switch among various competitors. The company has repeatedly said that despite its huge lead in the search market, users would be quick to switch if a better alternative appeared.  “Competition is one click away,” the company said in a presentation being delivered to parties in Washington, New York and Brussels.  Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich said the company felt it needed to do a better job of explaining its approach to the “new and complicated” online advertising industry. Kovacevich revealed Google’s lobbying effort on the company’s public policy blog, but didn’t immediately specify which groups have been invited to meet with the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.  Not everyone was swayed by the company’s arguments. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of research group Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the presentation takes a static view of the market and ignores trends that point to growing Google dominance in many areas of the Internet.  “Google Chrome is taking more and more of the browser market and Google search is taking more of the search market. That is the key policy fact that Google dances around,” said Rotenberg, who wasn’t invited to any of the meetings but viewed the presentation online.  Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter said in a note Friday that the company’s “key risk” was the growth of global regulatory and legal issues related to virtually all aspects of Google’s businesses.  Shares in Google were up 1.7% at $403.08 in Friday midday trading. The search advertising giant has been in regulators’ sights ever since it announced an agreement to buy display ad technology group DoubleClick in 2007. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission ultimately approved the deal, but concerns over Google’s market dominance have only grown since.  Last year, the Department of Justice was minutes from filing suit when Google dropped its plan to broker some of Yahoo Inc.’s Internet ads. With Google accounting for 63% of U.S. searches and Yahoo hovering near a 20% share, advertisers and regulators feared the agreement would give Google a stranglehold on the market.  The DOJ is currently looking into whether Google’s proposed book-search settlement with authors and publishers violates antitrust laws, while the FTC is looking into whether Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt’s presence on the boards of both Google and Apple Inc. also violates the law.