Government & Politics

Missouri AG Josh Hawley launches investigation of Google

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office on Monday issued a subpoena to Google as part of an investigation into whether the tech giant is violating Missouri’s consumer protection and anti-trust laws.

The investigation delves into Google’s collection of data on users and whether Google, the world’s most popular search engine, has manipulated search results at the expense of competitors, according to a release from Hawley’s office.

“When a company has access to as much consumer information as Google does, it’s my duty to ensure they are using it appropriately,” said Hawley, a Republican who is mounting a campaign for U.S. Senate. “I will not let Missouri consumers and businesses be exploited by industry giants.”

Patrick Lenihan, Google’s spokesman, said in an email that the company has not yet received the subpoena. Lenihan said Google has “strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment.”

Hawley’s investigation also will look at whether Google has misappropriated content from competitors. Yelp wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in September contending that Google has violated a 2012 settlement by allegedly scraping photos from Yelp reviews for its own search results.

“There is strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with the best interest of Missourians in mind,” Hawley said in a statement. “My Office will not stand by and let private consumer information be jeopardized by industry giants, especially to pad their profits.”

The California-based company had a brand value of nearly $102 billion as of May, according to Forbes.

Google has made significant investments in the Kansas City area, choosing the region to roll out its Google Fiber broadband service in 2011. Google Fiber is now available in 11 metro areas across the country.

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3

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