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Consumer Watchdog targets Google

Chief executive Eric Schmidt's seat on Apple's board, as both companies compete on mobile phones, was scrutinized by the Federal Trade Commission and led Schmidt to give up his board position. Now, the FTC appears skeptical of a merger with AdMobs, which competitors argue will extend Google's search dominance onto mobile phones, according to Bloomberg News.

"It is entirely appropriate to investigate not only Google but the entire developing space because it is incredibly important and changing so quickly with affects that will be felt in every household not only in the U.S., but in the world," said Bert Foer, head of the American Antitrust Institute.

Google isn't the only high-tech giant under a microscope. The FTC is suing Intel for anticompetitive practices and investigating IBM on antitrust allegations. Simpson isn't out to only bash Google: He's praised the company's decision to withdraw from China because of censorship practices there.

Yet his pursuit doesn't necessarily come from grass roots. Consumer Watchdog doesn't have the populist structure of Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports, for example, with hundreds of thousand of members who are regularly surveyed on their views.

And Simpson acknowledges that Consumer Watchdog's strategy is to grab attention on a complex topic that is often overlooked in Washington.

Drawing from his journalism background, he said, he knows he's got a better story when focusing on the biggest Silicon Valley brand around. Talking to lawmakers about privacy concerns in digital book search can have a eye-glazing effect. Saying Google isn't living up to its motto to "don't be evil" resonates with people, he said.

"If you can focus your attention on them, it shines a light on the whole industry," Simpson said. "I don't see any problem with publicity in good things. I'd say, 'just spell our name right.' "

As for Simpson's alliances with other corporate giants, he says they are necessary and approached with a healthy dose of skepticism.

"This is purely professional," he said.


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