Google Gets Green Light on ITA Buy ... with Restrictions

Lora Bentley

The federal government approved Google's acquisition of travel software company ITA last week. But that approval doesn't come without several restrictions, according to an Associated Press piece posted at newsvine.


Its acquisition of the software used by most major airlines and services such as TripAdvisor and Hotwire does not mean that Google will be selling airline tickets. Rather, the story says:

[S]imply typing "flights to somewhere sunny for under $500 in May" into Google [would result in] not just a set of links but also flight times, fares and a link to sites for buying the trip.

The acquisition will also mean higher advertising prices for airlines and other travel companies on Google sites.


However, the list of restrictions is not insignificant. First, Google has agreed to license ITA technology, as well as future innovations using the technology, to other companies until 2016. The company also agreed to keep ITA operations separate from other Google services to avoid misusing "proprietary customer data and technology that ... resides on ITA servers."


Most importantly, however, Google agreed to continue government monitoring of its activities to guard against anti-competitive practices. The agreement comes at the same time several different entities are contemplating or have begun an investigation into Google's practices in the search arena regarding "burying" competitors' links in search result pages, or giving priority to its own services.


Eric Goldman, academic director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law, said the restrictions

collectively indicate that the U.S. government has more and more hooks into Google and is subjecting Google to greater oversight and reduced operational freedom.

For its part, Google says it understands increased scrutiny will come as it grows.

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