FTC gearing up for wide-scale Google antitrust probe

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Watch out Google, the Federal Trade Commission is on your tail. The FTC is set to serve Google with civil subpoenas as part of a large-scale antitrust investigation, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Unlike previous Google antitrust investigations, which were limited in scope to mergers and acquisitions, the new one will “examine fundamental issues relating to Google’s core search advertising business.” The FTC is preparing to send Google its demands for information within the next few days, sources in the know tell the WSJ.

The probe has been a long time coming for Google, whose search dominance has evolved into a variety of web services — like Gmail, YouTube and Blogger — and a fast-growing mobile platform in Android, all of which bolster the company’s ad business. Indeed, it may be Android’s success that’s spurring on the FTC’s investigation, as it’s quickly becoming a way for Google to dominate in mobile search advertising. Google doesn’t charge manufacturers to use its software, but it certainly has a lot to gain by having a plethora of mobile devices tied to its services in consumers’ hands.

The European Commission began its own investigation into Google’s advertising business last November after complaints from several companies, including Microsoft subsidiary Ciao.de.

Photo via Robert Scoble