Google has engaged in monopolistic practices that allow it to collect vast amounts of personal data from consumers, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and attorneys general from 37 other states and territories asserted in a lawsuit Thursday, the latest in a bipartisan effort of government officials to take on Big Tech.
The lawsuit, led by Democratic Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Republican Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, contends Google has “methodically undertaken actions to entrench and reinforce its general search services and search-related advertising monopolies by stifling competition.”
It comes just a week after Iowa joined the federal government and 47 other states in an antitrust lawsuit against another technology behemoth — Facebook — alleging it also illegally vanquished competitors and left the public with fewer options for protecting personal privacy.
“This is a case among other things about power,” Miller said Thursday in a virtual news conference. “Google has immense power in the technology world.”
In a blog post, Google’s director of economic policy, Adam Cohen, said the company was prepared to answer questions about how it works.
“But this lawsuit seeks to redesign search in ways that would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses’ ability to connect directly with customers. We look forward to making that case in court, while remaining focused on delivering a high-quality search experience for our users,” he wrote in the blog.
Thursday’s lawsuit is in addition to a U.S. Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit that also focuses on Google’s alleged monopoly as a general search engine.
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The attorneys general said they will file a motion to consolidate the new lawsuit and the Justice Department lawsuit.
This is in addition to a lawsuit led by Texas against Google that focuses on display advertising and not just its ubiquitous internet search engine.
Miller said working separately from the Texas effort allows states to challenge Google’s legal team on “another front.”
“We have a very worthy opponent, an incredibly powerful opponent,” Miller said. “And we have the antitrust law to deal with, which is always a challenge.”
Congress has been investigating possible antitrust behavior by Google, and European governments have levied large fines against it but so far to little effect.
“Those that are concerned about Google’s power shouldn’t put all their eggs in this basket by any means,” Miller said.
Thursday’s lawsuit specifically targets Google’s behavior to limit rivals’ distribution channels, claiming the tech giant discriminates against specialized search providers that offer travel, home repair and entertainment services, and denies access to its search-advertising management tool, SA360, to competitors like Bing.
“As Google perceives potential threats to its hegemony, it blunts and burdens those competitive threats,” the lawsuit asserts.
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The lawsuit cites public estimates that Google pays Apple $8 to $12 billion annually to make Google the default search engine on Apple devices like the iPhone.
The suit also seeks to keep Google from stifling competition and innovation with a “monopolistic grasp” in consumer uses like voice-assisted searches through home speaker systems and cars with internet access.
The lawsuit suggests that “structural divestitures” of Google — essentially breaking up the company — are a possible remedy for the court to consider.
Miller said the bipartisan group in the future should look more at how Google’s and Facebook’s behavior has influenced data privacy and consumer protection.
“This was a lot of work that went into this case,” Miller said. “What we do next or what we do in an ancillary way has to be developed.”
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The Associated Press contributed.