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Google says it isn’t going to start scraping sites now that its settlement with the feds has expired

Google changed its business practices to settle a 2012 antitrust investigation.

Google founders Sergey Brin (left) and Larry Page
Google founders Sergey Brin (left) and Larry Page
Michael Nagle / Getty

Google told the U.S. government this month that it would continue allowing sites like Yelp to opt out from having their data scraped and displayed in the tech giant’s search results.

Five years ago, Google agreed to cease that practice in order to settle a major antitrust investigation led by the Federal Trade Commission. But the limits on scraping would have expired on Dec. 27 if Google hadn’t decided on its own to preserve them.

“We believe that these policies provide additional flexibility for developers and websites, and we will continue them as policies after the commitments expire,” Google told the FTC in a letter published today.

Google’s renewed commitment comes as the company continues to draw the attention of competition regulators, particularly in Europe, which slapped it with a record $2.7 billion fine this year for prioritizing its own offerings over rivals.

But those rivals are still likely to bristle at Google’s decision to preserve its previous pledge on scraping. Yelp, for one, told the FTC in September that Google had actually broken its legally binding promise, charging that the tech giant had actually used Yelp photos in its search results.

“Google should be held accountable and subject to remedies sufficient to ensure its anticompetitive conduct does not continue to harm competition and consumers,” wrote Luther Lowe, the vice president of global public policy at Yelp, in a letter to the FTC at the time.

Google also told the FTC this month that it would preserve commitments it made to satisfy competition concerns about AdWords. In 2012, the company agreed to “remove restrictions on the use of its online search advertising platform,” satisfying regulators’ concerns that the company had made it “more difficult for advertisers to coordinate online advertising campaigns across multiple platforms,” the FTC said.

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