Missouri’s attorney general announced Monday that his office would investigate Google for possible violations of the state’s consumer protection and antitrust laws.
Josh Hawley, a Republican seeking to unseat Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill in the 2018 midterm elections, said at a news conference that he had issued an investigative subpoena to Google.
“There is strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with the best interest of Missourians in mind,” Hawley said in an accompanying statement posted on the Missouri Attorney General’s website.
“We are looking at allegations that Google has lifted information from competitors’ own sites,” Hawley said during a news conference.
Hawley contended that such “misappropriation hurts business” and “threatens to drive Google’s competitors out of the market.”
Google spokesperson Patrick Lenihan said Monday the company had not yet received the subpoena, Engadget reported.
“However,” Lenihan said, “we have strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment.”
As Google has become a leading provider of online search, mobile software and advertising technology, the company has been the subject of increased global scrutiny.
In 2013, attorneys general of 37 states reached a $7 million settlement over Google’s unauthorized collection of Wi-Fi data through its Street View digital-mapping cars.
The same year, an inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission led to an agreement by Google to provide more flexible terms to advertisers and patent licensees.
In Europe, where antitrust law has been more aggressively enforced, Google was fined 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in June for giving its own shopping products prominent placement in its search results, Bloomberg reported.
Google is also under investigation by the European Union regarding its Android mobile platform and its AdSense for Search service.
Hawley said he was compelled to launch the investigation by his oath of office and his desire “to get to the truth.”
“When a company has access to as much consumer information as Google does,” he said, “it’s my duty to ensure they are using it appropriately.”
Hawley pledged, “I will not let Missouri consumers and businesses be exploited by industry giants.”