Google To Continue Honoring Its Scraping Antitrust Settlement

Google vowed to continue following the web scraping guidelines agreed as part of its 2012 settlement with the United States Federal Trade Commission even as the limits imposed on the company are now coming to an end, the tech giant revealed in a recent letter addressed to the regulator. The Alphabet-owned Internet giant suggested it changed its ways since Yelp hit it with an antitrust lawsuit over its online crawlers that displayed some of the website's content as part of Google's own services, robbing it of traffic in the process of doing so. Today, Google's official stance is that allowing websites to opt out of its content scraping programs provides additional "flexibility" to both developers and publishers, which is why the company is adamant to keep maintaining such policies going forward even though it isn't legally required to do so anymore.

The Mountain View, California-based firm provided similar reasoning for its decision to continue honoring its settlement with the FTC in regards to its advertising partners. As part of the 2012 settlement, Google also agreed to remove a number of restrictions placed on AdWords users that inhibited their ability to coordinate online advertising campaigns on multiple platforms. Given Google's dominance in the Internet search and digital advertising business, the federal regulator deemed certain clauses in AdWords' terms of use anti-competitive, with the company ultimately agreeing to settle the matter by removing them. While the enforcement period for that provision is now also coming to an end, Google will continue honoring it in the future.

The company's move is largely unsurprising seeing how a return to its previous practices would likely just lead to identical antitrust lawsuits which Google would have an even harder time of defending against given its 2012 settlement that set a major precedent on the matter. The issue of its web scraping activities may still not be over, with Yelp filing an official complaint with the FTC in September which claimed Google already broke the settlement agreement and scraped some of the company's images which it ended up displaying in its Image Search results over the course of this year. The allegation still didn't amount to anything and it's currently unclear whether it's being actively investigated by the federal agency.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Senior Writer
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]