Google’s latest attempt to add more content to its local business listings by buying travel brand Frommer has been challenged by the Consumer Watchdog.
The acquisition – the financial details of which were not disclosed – would build on Google’s purchase of restaurant review guide publisher Zagat in September 2011.
It also reinforces a significant shift in Google’s previous policy of steering away from content production and remaining neutral as a web search provider.
Google’s increasing focus on content raises serious consumer choice issues, according to the Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director, John Simpson.
“There is a fundamental conflict between being a search provider and a content provider. As Google has increased its content and services, it has unfairly favoured them in its search results and damaged competitors,” he claimed.
The Consumer Watchdog has called on federal antitrust regulators to block the purchase, with Simpson arguing that if the deal was granted with conditions, Google would not honour any promises it made. He suggested that the recent fine given to Google for for monitoring Apple Safari browser users even though they had a “do not track” privacy setting selected showed the company could not be trusted.
“They were just fined a record $22.5m by the Federal Trade Commission for violating a consent decree and hacking around privacy settings on iPhones, iPads and Apple computers – they were lying to consumers about what they were doing,” he said.
The purchase of Frommer from publisher John Wiley & Sons was confirmed in a statement that said that Wiley was selling Frommer, as well as other parts of its travel publishing programme, as they no longer aligned with the company’s long-term business strategy.