The regulator has been making inquiries about Google's business behavior in recent months, but is now issuing subpoenas to collect a broad swath of information from the company and from others that do business with Google, the Journal said Thursday.
The FTC would not comment on the investigation, and neither would Google, but it is thought to be concerned with how Google uses its dominance as an Internet search engine to direct users to its own products and services at the expense of other companies.
It is often said that Google is like a company that owns both the highway and the service stations and restaurants along the route. It can customize what billboards appear in front of any given user and the order of appearance of other companies that pop up on searches.
After the European Commission opened a similar investigation in November, Google executives said in an online posting, "Given our success and the disruptive nature of our business, it's entirely understandable that we've caused unease among other companies and caught the attention of regulators."