New FTC Chair's Views On Google, Broadband Competition And Behavioral Advertising

from the sounds-decent-so-far... dept

We’ve been receiving a series of different reports from different folks about a recent interview that new FTC boss, Jon Leibowitz, gave on CSPAN. Leibowitz has been in the FTC for a while, though, he’s yet another former entertainment industry lobbyist in the administration (he was VP of Congressional Affairs for the MPAA from 2000 to 2004). So far, however, he seems to be taking quite reasonable positions on a variety of topics (though, some questionable views on other areas). Questioned about Google’s dominance in the market (something that the FTC has been investigating for a while now), he pointed out that dominance is “the American way” and not necessarily an antitrust violation:

Google has certainly has a dominant position in search advertising. There’s no doubt about that. From our perspective, just having a dominant position doesn’t in any way violate the law. It’s if you do something — as the Justice Department in the 1990s alleged that Microsoft did — to exclude competitors illegally, that’s when it becomes a problem.

If you get to a dominant position or a monopoly position by virtue of your own acumen, that’s really the American way.

Then there’s broadband competition, where he definitely does appear to be concerned about the lack of competition and the lack of transparency from current broadband providers:

We believe consumers need to have notice and consent about what they’re getting. It’s very, very important that these providers tell consumers about the speed they’re getting, and whether (ISPs) are making any types of management decisions in terms of the network that affect consumers….

In a perfect marketplace where you had more competitors, you wouldn’t need the government necessarily to be terribly involved. Particularly in the consumer protection area, we have a big roll to play. Broadband is a deregulated product. That’s good, we like deregulation generally. But when you have deregulation, you also have law enforcement to make sure people do the right thing.

And, then, there’s the question of behavioral advertising, where he believes that opt-in, rather than opt-out, makes a lot of sense:

I think some of the more enlightened companies do do opt-in. I think a lot of them don’t. I think the better practice is always opt in.

On the whole, then, he seems to not be too quick to bash companies for being successful, and seems to recognize that competition and transparency are important issues. Those are all good things. There are some fears however, that he’s a bit quick on the trigger when it comes to regulating over that behavioral advertising issue, and doesn’t seem to mind metered broadband, so long as customers know what they’re getting.

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Comments on “New FTC Chair's Views On Google, Broadband Competition And Behavioral Advertising”

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13 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

at a cost set by who or what?

Is it the government’s job to force a company to deliver a certain product?

Why doesn’t the consumer move somewhere else? Somewhere that *has* the services they want?

You can’t go into Burger King, order a Big Mac, and expect to get one. Then, demand the government force Burger King to sell you one.

In the case you’re describing, the government needs to tune the regulations and incentives, to make sure that profitable competition is possible in the market.

If there’s money to be made, someone will step in to make it.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

An internet connection isn’t a god given right, and so long as ISP’s advertise their products truthfully then you get what you sign up for.

I’d agree… except for the fact that thanks to regulations and gov’t subsidies, it’s not a private issue. The companies have relied on gov’t money and support and rights of way to build their network with little competition. That gives them an unfair advantage to then do bad things with the network.

If there were actual competition, it wouldn’t be an issue.

But there isn’t… in part due to gov’t activity. Thus, this is a space where unfettered abuse of their position should in fact be monitored by the gov’t.

YouAreWrong says:

I'm happy for the new AG

Other than Google’s treatment of a handful of publishers with adsense accounts, I have yet to hear of them do anything that’s predatory. Hell, when you search on their page, THEY EVEN DIRECTLY LINK TO COMPETITORS at the top of the page in a very prominent position, just so you can see how much better Google’s results are. I love Google, and I support them.

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