An antitrust probe has been formally opened into Alphabet's Google by attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and every US state except for California and Alabama as US government officials look to rein in the country's tech giants.
The probe is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who says it will focus on the search giant's “overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anti-competitive behavior that harms consumers”. If this sounds at all familiar, that is because the EU fined Google €1.49bn for blocking rival online search advertisers earlier this year.
At the announcement in Washington, states participating in the probe asked Google to provide documents on its advertising business. Several attorneys general in attendance noted that the investigation was “preliminary” though they expect it to expand to cover other issues including data privacy.
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At the same time, a different group of eight state attorneys general, led by New York, announced last week that they were beginning their own investigation into Facebook.
Google antitrust probe
The basis of the antitrust probe into Google is built around accusations that its web search leads consumers to its products over that of its rivals, causing them to loose business. Complaints of potentially anti-competitive behavior have also been made about how the company runs the advertising side of its business.
Back in 2013, the FTC concluded an investigation into Google declaring that the company did not manipulate its search results to hurt rivals. However, at that time, the company also agreed to end the practice of scraping where it misappropriated competitor's content to use as its own.
At the end of last month, the Department of Justice requested information and documents from Google related to previous antitrust probes of the company. Alphabet said that it is cooperating with federal regulators as well as with the antitrust probe from the states.
The idea of breaking up tech giants has grown in popularity among US lawmakers who feel that these companies have too much control over the data and everyday lives of citizens. The antitrust probe into Google will likely take some time to be completed but if successful, we could see the US government go after the likes of Amazon, Apple and other tech giants just as it did to Microsoft in 2001.
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