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FTC gearing up for probe of Google

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission will probe Google Inc.'s dominance of the Internet search industry.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is alerting high-tech companies to gather information in preparation for a probe of Google Inc.’s dominance of the Internet search industry, three people familiar with the matter said.

The agency told the companies that it plans to issue so-called civil investigative demands for the information, said the people, who requested anonymity because the FTC hasn’t made the matter public. The demands are similar to subpoenas.

The FTC, which has been considering undertaking a broad investigation, waited until the Justice Department concluded its own review of Google’s acquisition of ITA Software Inc., two people familiar with the matter said this month. The Justice Department on April 9 approved Google’s $700 million purchase of ITA on the condition it makes travel data available to search-engine rivals and lets the government review complaints it is acting unfairly.

A Google spokesman had no immediate comment. An FTC spokesman declined to comment.

Google, of Mountain View, Calif., is facing growing scrutiny from regulators as it bolsters its search business. Officials in Texas and the European Commission have started investigations into Google’s search dominance, while Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is considering a probe.

Thomas Rosch, a Republican who is one of five FTC commissioners, said last month he supported a probe of the dominant players in the Internet-search industry, without specifying which companies. He is the only commissioner to say publicly that such an investigation is in order.

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