FTC Likely Asking Microsoft, Yahoo About Google Search Monopoly

The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly pumping Internet companies for information about Google as it mounts an antitrust case versus the search engine.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is allegedly asking Microsoft, Yahoo and several other well-heeled high-tech companies to cull information about Google's imperious command of the Web search market.

The FTC warned the companies that it will issue civil investigative demands for the information, which are tantamount to legal subpoenas, according to Bloomberg.

The publication, citing anonymous sources, said the FTC waited until its antitrust regulator peers at the U.S. Justice Department blessed Google's purchase of online travel data provider ITA Software for $700 million.

Both Google and Microsoft declined to comment for this story. An inquiry to the FTC was not answered as of this writing, though the agency refrains from commenting on investigations.

However, the FTC is likely to seek information from Google's rivals in the search market, where it commands a 65 percent share in the United States and 90 percent in Europe. These rivals include Microsoft, whose Bing search engine has about 13 percent market share in the United States and less overseas, as well as Yahoo, whose search engine Bing currently powers.

"I don't think you're off the mark to assume that Microsoft, among others, would have been contacted," said a source familiar with the FTC's thinking. "Other parties that may have been contacted would be Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Yelp, Ask.com, as well as some of the online travel companies that make up FairSearch.org (Expedia, Kayak)."

FairSearch.org is a coalition of online travel companies originally forged to keep ITA from falling into Google's grasp. Microsoft joined FairSearch.org to protect its Bing search engine's access to ITA data.

While the DOJ granted Google the right to acquire ITA, it did so with prejudice, requiring the search engine to agree to stringent conditions geared to fostering fair competition in the online travel space.

FairSearch.org spokesman Thomas Barnett, whoas a former assistant attorney general led the DOJ's Antitrust Division from 2005 to 2008 and currently counsels Expedia,, said the DOJ's approval decree showed the agency has a continued interest in monitoring Google, opening it to a broader antitrust inquiry.