Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said he’s handed an investigative subpoena to Google as part of an investigation into the tech giant’s overall business practices, focused on its collection and use of user data as well as an alleged habit of favoring paid advertisers above all other types of search results.
This portion of the investigation is a directly linked to June allegations by the European Commission, which found after its own seven-year investigation that Google has rigged search results to favor its own comparative shopping platform and those operating on it. The commission issued a record 2.4 billion euro fine against Google, but the company is in the early stages of an appeal.
Hawley, a Republican who’s running for Senate in 2018, said he has “strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with Missourians in mind,” adding in a Twitter post that “no entity in the history of the world has collected as much information about you as Google. My office wants to know what google is doing with this information.”
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“The bottom line is: Missouri is not going to give Google a free pass,,” Hawley wrote on Twitter. “I will not stand idly by and let the self-serving interests of tech industry giants outweigh the interests of the individual.”
He added in another post that “substantial evidence suggests” Google’s search results operate by listing its affiliated web sites higher in results, which Hawley said is “an unlawful attempt to leverage monopoly power in the search engine market.”
A Google Spokesman said the company has yet to receive the subpoena, but added: “We have strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment.”
When the commission issued its fine earlier this year, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker alluded to the European investigation focusing on paid advertisements, that often go directly to retail web sites and are given priority on Google.
“When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily,” Walker said. “And advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with the thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both. We believe the European Commission’s online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections.”
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