“Google Inc. is back under U.S. antitrust scrutiny as officials ask whether the tech giant stifled competitors’ access to its Android mobile-operating system, said two people familiar with the matter,” David McLaughlin reports for Bloomberg.

“The Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement with the Justice Department to spearhead an investigation of Google’s Android business, the people said,” McLaughlin reports. “FTC officials have met with technology company representatives who say Google gives priority to its own services on the Android platform, while restricting others, added the people, who asked for anonymity because the matter is confidential.”

“The inquiry is in its early stages, and it could end without a case against the company. Regardless, it shows the FTC is again turning its attention to one of America’s biggest companies, two years after it closed a separate investigation into Google’s Internet search business,” McLaughlin reports. “The FTC’s handling of the earlier probe left some technology companies skeptical of the agency’s willingness to bring a case, according to the people.”

MacDailyNews Take: When you help bankroll and guide a U.S. President to election and average one White House meeting per week, problems tend to magically dry up at government agencies, it seems.

“The FTC led the U.S. investigation into Google’s search business that started around 2011. That probe, which also touched upon the Android system, ended in early 2013 with the commission voting 5-0 not to bring a case,” McLaughlin reports. “Then-FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, announcing the close of the investigation, said the agency lacked evidence to bring a case.”

“‘The FTC comes to this with a lot of baggage,’ said Gary Reback, a lawyer with Carr Ferrell LLP, who filed a Google-related complaint with European antitrust officials on behalf of a startup that makes applications that block online tracking,” McLaughlin reports. “‘When we say we’re concerned, it’s not only because they didn’t do a good investigation the first time around, or the fact that they didn’t protect the confidentiality of the people who complained,’ Reback said, ‘but also because they seem to take directions from Google.'”

“The latest FTC scrutiny comes after Europe’s antitrust chief challenged Mountain View, California-based Google earlier this year over its dominance of Internet search,” McLaughlin reports. “The European Union has also started its own investigation into Google’s Android platform following complaints, including from a group representing Microsoft Corp., Expedia Inc. and Nokia Oyj. It isn’t clear to what extent EU and U.S. antitrust investigators are cooperating.”

“The Android mobile platform ties together several Google products, including search and maps, into one bundle, echoing the even more dominant Microsoft Windows platforms of nearly two decades ago,” McLaughlin reports. “In 1998, the U.S. claimed Microsoft unlawfully protected its Windows monopoly by keeping computer makers from promoting Web browsers that competed with its Internet Explorer. Microsoft agreed, in a settlement four years later, to end the anticompetitive conduct.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: They should be looking at Google’s utter dominance of online advertising (the company’s bread and butter), but we doubt that’ll ever happen given the current atmosphere.

We’ll see if Google’s quixotic attempt to wrest back control of Android runs afoul of antitrust law and, if so, if anybody does anything about it.

SEE ALSO:
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Google to settle U.S. FTC antitrust probe, sources say – January 2, 2013
Google’s Eric Schmidt spurns Obama cabinet post offer – December 11, 2012
Obama to reward Google’s Schmidt with Cabinet post? – December 5, 2012
FTC staff said to formally recommend antitrust lawsuit against Google over FRAND abuse – November 1, 2012
Google U.S. antitrust lawsuit said to be urged by FTC investigators over Internet search, FRAND abuse – October 15, 2012
European antitrust authorities set to accuse Google of ‘abuse of dominance’ – December 3, 2011
Seattle Times: ‘Google should be investigated for violation of federal antitrust laws’ – May 23, 2010