Google algorithms must be scrutinised by SEO expert, says UK judge

(Image credit: Shutterstock / AlexHliv)

Google must either allow a search engine optimisation (SEO) expert to review its ranking algorithms or concede a portion of its defence in an ongoing legal battle, a UK High Court judge has ruled.

The search giant stands accused of suppressing search results relating to rival price comparison site Foundem and promoting paid advertisements instead.

Google argues the practice is not in breach of UK competition law, but must now agree to have its algorithms scrutinised or else drop the line of defence.

Google competition lawsuit

Foundem’s case against Google has raged on since 2006, when a change to ranking algorithms caused the company to plummet in search rankings - an incident Foundem believes amounts to an abuse of market dominance.

The company has pursued its case against Google in both EU and UK jurisdictions. The European Commissioner for Competition found in favour of Foundem in June 2017, but the UK case (first filed in 2012) remains in its nascent stages.

Foundem submitted a request to bring in an independent SEO expert to interpret confidential documents disclosed by Google, pertaining to its ranking algorithms. The firm argues its lawyers are not equipped with sufficient knowledge to properly analyse the technical documents without, in effect, a translator.

Google resisted the proposed measure, on the grounds it would jeopardise the integrity of its ranking processes. Faced with claims it should withdraw any evidence it was unwilling to have fully analysed, the tech giant insisted the documents were central to its defence.

Mr Justice Roth, the High Court judge assigned to the case, proved unsympathetic, and has now given Google an ultimatum. The company must either allow an expert to comb through the documents, or else withdraw the evidence entirely.

The High Court has given Google “reasonable time” to decide on its strategy.

Via The Register

Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.