New York attorney general Letitia James is now one of 50 attorneys general from 48 states pursuing an antitrust investigation into Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, according to a statement released Monday.
“Google’s control over nearly every aspect of our lives has placed the company at the center of our digital economy,” James said in prepared remarks. “But it doesn’t take a search engine to understand that unchecked corporate power shouldn’t eclipse consumers’ rights.”
The effort may not rise to the level of a federal probe, but with practically every state now looking into the Alphabet-owned search giant, the matter is no less profound. And it’s not limited to Mountain View, either. The announcement follows the Friday disclosure of a similar probe into neighboring tech giant Facebook, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social media company that owns WhatsApp, Instagram and the Oculus virtual reality division.
As in Facebook’s case, the main thrust of the bipartisan coalition is to determine whether Google has used anticompetitive practices to drive its business and keep it on top. The company’s divisions range from search to platforms like Android and Wear OS, along with numerous other teams developing emerging technology products and services.
The sentiments expressed about this latest inquiry echo the previous announcement: “As with the Facebook investigation we are leading, we will use every investigative tool at our disposal in the Google investigation to ensure the truth is exposed,” James said.
Unlike the Facebook probe, the New York attorney general is not spearheading this effort. The investigation, which is ongoing, is being led by Texas attorney general Ken Paxton. He told reporters on Monday that investigators will start with Google’s advertising and search dominance, but left the door open for a broader scope, stating: “The facts will lead where the facts will lead.”
Notably, the two states that haven’t thrown in with the rest are Alabama and the tech companies’ native California. The office of California attorney general Xavier Becerra wouldn’t comment specifically about the matter, but implied that it might be teeing up its own effort, explaining, “to protect the integrity of our work, we can’t comment — to confirm or deny any pending or potential investigation.”
On Monday, the other states issued Google a civil investigative demand, an official and mandatory request for information.
So-called “Big Tech” has been facing heightened scrutiny over various companies’ dominance from congressional lawmakers and federal departments, including the Department of Justice. And it’s not just Google and Facebook. Inquiries loom into the practices of companies like e-commerce juggernaut Amazon, as well as consumer technology maker Apple.
The latter just made a notable change to its App Store algorithms, so that the iPhone maker’s own offerings don’t always lead the list of top-ranked apps.