Missouri is launching an investigation into whether Google has broken its consumer protection and antitrust laws.
In a statement, the state’s attorney general, Josh Hawley, said that his office has issued a subpoena to the search giant earlier on Monday.
The investigation will seek to determine if Google has violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act — its principal consumer-protection law — and other state antitrust laws, according to a statement.
Hawley, who’s running for U.S. Senate next year, is launching the investigation at a time when America’s largest tech companies are facing considerable scrutiny from both parties for their position in both America’s corporate and civic spheres.
Late last month in hearings before the House and Senate, representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter were taken to task for their potential role in distributing Russian propaganda during the last Presidential election.
With the investigation, the state’s top lawyer will examine Google’s collection, use and disclosure of personal information; its “alleged misappropriation of online content from the websites of its competitors;” and its manipulation of search results to preference “websites owned by Google” and to “demote” websites that compete with Google, according to a statement.
“There is strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with the best interest of Missourians in mind,” Hawley said in the statement. “My Office will not stand by and let private consumer information be jeopardized by industry giants, especially to pad their profits.”
In the announcement, Hawley’s office emphasized the historic $2.7 billion in fines leveled by the European Union against Google for its anti-trust practices and a complaint filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center with the Federal Trade Commission on Google’s consumer tracking practices.
Also of interest to Hawley’s investigation is the roughly 70 percent of all card transaction information that Google collects.
“When a company has access to as much consumer information as Google does, it’s my duty to ensure they are using it appropriately,” Hawley said in the statement. “I will not let Missouri consumers and businesses be exploited by industry giants.”
We’ve reached out to Google with a request for comment and will update when we hear back.