Tue, Sep 03, 2019

Google is reportedly facing a big antitrust probe from 'more than half' of the state attorneys general, and it could be announced as soon as next week


An antitrust investigation into Google is reportedly being prepared by "more than half" of America's state attorneys general, according to a Washington Post report on Tuesday. It looks to be yet another probe looking into whether one of Silicon Valley's largest companies has become too dominant.

The Post reported that a press conference announcing the investigation into Google is expected to take place next Monday, September 9th, though its sources said that date could be subject to change.

The report also said it remained unclear whether the attorneys general planned to open up antitrust probes into other tech giants, like Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, or if Google was the only company targeted by the group at this time.

According to the Post, the attorneys general may specifically be looking into Google's handling of personal user data, as well as its search engine algorithms, which multiple state attorneys general have said in the past, could be used in ways that hurt competition.

Earlier this summer, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) — one of the federal agencies with the authority to carry out antitrust probes, along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — was planning an investigation into Google over its search and other businesses. It has yet to be confirmed whether or not that investigation has officially launched.

Similar antitrust probes were reportedly planned to be brought against Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, though Facebook is the only company to confirm that an investigation by the FTC into its business is underway.

In late July, the DOJ said it would open up a broad review of top "online platforms" for search, social media, and e-commerce to determine whether they are stifling competition and innovation. The DOJ did not cite any specific companies for its review, but left little doubt that companies like Alphabet, Facebook, and Amazon were all under the agency's scrutiny.

According to the Post's report on Tuesday, some state attorneys met with DOJ officials this summer to address their antitrust concerns. Still, it is not immediately clear how the potential investigation into Google by the attorneys general will differ from any possible probes by the DOJ.

Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda told Business Insider on Tuesday: "Google's services help people every day, create more choice for consumers, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country. We continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector."

With looming probes by state and federal regulators, the question remains if any will have more teeth than the FTC's antitrust investigation of Google's search and smartphone business practices back in 2013. At that time, Google walked away from the encounter without incurring any financial penalties and having committed itself only to vague promises to change some business practices — an outcome derided by many critics as a slap on the wrist.

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