The US Federal Trade Commission is alerting high-tech companies to gather data in preparation for a probe of Google Inc.’s dominance of the Internet search industry, three people familiar with the matter said.

The agency told the companies that it plans to issue so- called civil investigative demands for the information, said the people, who requested anonymity because the FTC hasn’t made the matter public. The demands are similar to subpoenas.

The FTC, which has been considering a broad investigation, waited until the Justice Department concluded its own review of Mountain View, California-based Google’s acquisition of ITA Software Inc., two people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.
The Justice Department on April 9 approved Google’s $US700 million purchase of ITA on the condition it makes travel data available to search-engine rivals and lets the government review complaints that it’s acting unfairly.

An FTC investigation “has the potential to be very significant,” Eleanor Fox, a law professor at New York University, said in an interview. “It could be ‘Google as the next Microsoft’,” Fox said, referring to the Justice Department probe and lawsuit settlement involving the Redmond, Washington- based software maker.