Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office has issued a subpoena to internet giant Google in connection with an investigation into the company’s business practices. During a news conference today, Hawley says he wants to know if Google is breaking Missouri law by the way it’s collecting, using, and releasing information about its users and their online activities. He says the company will be held accountable and Missouri is not giving Google a free pass.
“It is a very strong concern that we have potentially in Google a company that is gathering all sorts of personal confidential information and then using that personal confidential information for profit,” says Hawley. “We want to make sure that Google is not misappropriating it, that they are informing consumers about what they are collecting, that they are using the personal data that they do collect in a lawful manner and that consumers have the option to opt out of any collection that may violate their privacy.”
Hawley, a Republican, is also questioning Google’s alleged practice of “scraping” of online content from competing websites.
“This misappropriation hurts business and it threatens to drive Google’s competitors out of the market, which in turn deprives consumers of innovation and valuable services,” he says.
Hawley’s investigation also aims to learn if the company is breaking the law by leveraging what he calls Google’s “near-monopoly” power in the search engine market to stifle competition. He says “substantial evidence” suggests the company might manipulate search results to list Google-affiliated websites higher in search results.
In addition to online users’ location, device information, cookie data, online queries, and website history, Hawley says it is estimated that Google has access to 70% of all card transactions in the United States. He says most people don’t realize that Google builds individual user profiles of those who use the company’s services.
Google spokesperson Patrick Lenihan has released the following statement to Missourinet:
“We have not yet received the subpoena, however, we have strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment.”
In June, the European Union issued Google a record $2.7 billion antitrust fine. In July, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a Google program that tracks consumer behavior.