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EPIC Twittering About Google
The latest pseudo-outrage in search engine competition is over an internet search engine that...searches the internet. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a cyber-privacy watchdog, has filed a complaint with the FTC over Google's latest tweak to their search function.

The cause of EPIC's concern is "Search Plus Your World" which "blends information such as photos, comments and news posted on its Google+ social network into users' search results." Users who log into Google or Google+ "will have the option of seeing search results that are customized to their interests and connections, say, a photo of the family dog or a friend's recommendation for a restaurant."

EPIC considers as undesirable Google making their search results more relevant to the people who want that option. Moreover, EPIC apparently seeks to have the FTC to prohibit Google from providing consumers with an additional search option. The cause of opposition is not clear, particularly since, as the L.A. Times noted, "Google is not the first search engine to do this. Microsoft's Bing, which has an alliance with Facebook, has been tapping some information shared on Facebook since May."

On one hand, Google is more popular than Bing. According to Experian Hitwise, Google is about twice as popular as Bing and Yahoo (which is powered by Bing) combined. On the other hand, Facebook, Bing's social networking partner, is over 150 times more popular than Google+.

What, if any, actions the FTC will take with respect to Google+ is unknown. Twitter's objections to the enhanced search feature, however, points to the proper response. Twitter stated that the Google search feature is "bad" for internet users and will make finding Twitter-based information "much harder for everyone."

If Twitter is correct, then there is no need for federal intervention in the market. If people feel that "Search Plus Your World" is not helpful, they won't use it. A regulatory agency shouldn't speculate as to whether a search engine option is beneficial to consumers when they can decide for themselves. And that's a message that can be delivered in less than 140 characters.

See, OIRA Watch - The Need for OIRA Review of Independent Agency Regulations

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