Missouri Attorney General Launches Probe Into Google's Business Practices

Google is facing another investigation into its business practices.                  Claudia Cruz  CNET

Google is facing another investigation into its business practices. Claudia Cruz CNET

But as Google and other tech companies like Amazon and Facebook continue to become more powerful, some USA politicians and academics are posing questions more forcefully about whether antitrust laws should be changed or brought to bear in a new way against the tech giants.

Attorney General Josh Hawley's office said on Monday that it issued a subpoena to investigate if Google's use of information that it collects about consumers is appropriate and if the company stifles competing websites in search results. "This misappropriation hurts business and it threatens to drive Google's competitors out of the market".

"Through this extensive cross-platform data collection, Google can construct highly detailed profiles of users and their online activity", Hawley says in a fact sheet issued Monday. He pointed to the European Union fining Google $2.7 billion in June for unfairly favoring links to its own shopping service over those from other e-commerce websites. "We should not just accept the word of these corporate giants that they have our best interests at heart". Missouri's Hawley said the FTC's inaction created an opening.

With heightened concerns on Capitol Hill from both Democrats and Republicans, Silicon Valley is navigating a political reckoning of sorts. Federal regulators didn't find any reasons to impose radical changes.

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Hawley's office said Missouri's strong consumer-protection laws could help with a potential lawsuit over user data. However, lawmakers in the past year have become increasingly skeptical of and at times antagonistic toward the tech industry.

Hawley noted that the FTC had chosen not to take enforcement action against Google after a 2012 investigation of its search practices.

Hawley - a Republican who is running for the GOP Senate nomination to challenge sitting Democratic Sen. He said the agency essentially gave Google a "free pass".

He says the company hasn't yet received an investigative subpoena issued by Hawley's office.

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