Missouri AG Josh Hawley launches investigation of Google

Credit Chris Ratcliffe  Bloomberg

The probe comes after European regulators investigated significant aspects of Google's business and as Washington is taking a harder look into the influence of dominant tech companies in American society.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley launches an antitrust investigation into Google (GOOGL, GOOG), accusing the company of violating the state's consumer protection laws.

"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 seeks to determine whether Google violated Missouri's antitrust laws by scraping content from competing websites, bumping down competitors in search results and listing Google-owned sites first.

"Through this extensive cross-platform data collection, Google can construct highly detailed profiles of users and their online activity", Hawley says in a fact sheet issued Monday.

In a statement, Google spokesman Patrick Lenihan said that his company has not yet received Hawley's subpoena. In July, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a Google program that tracks consumer behavior.

Hawley noted that the FTC had chosen not to take enforcement action against Google after a 2012 investigation of its search practices.

"This is not a "Dear Google" letter", he said.

Google, which has challenged the European regulators' fine, didn't immediately comment.

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.

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