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Iowa, other states announce Google investigation

Antitrust review follows last week's announcement of a Facebook probe

The Google logo at a marketing conference in Cologne, Germany. (Bloomberg photo by Krisztian Bocsi)
The Google logo at a marketing conference in Cologne, Germany. (Bloomberg photo by Krisztian Bocsi)
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Attorneys general for 50 U.S. states and territories on Monday officially announced an antitrust investigation of Google, embarking on a wide-ranging review of a company that Democrats and Republicans said may threaten competition and consumers.

Iowa is one of eight states leading the investigation, along with Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Mississippi, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office said in a news release Monday.

Appearing on the steps of the Supreme Court, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet.” He added it is an investigation for now and not a lawsuit.

“It’s very early in the investigation and we have drawn no conclusions,” Miller said in the release. “The broad question we are examining is whether Google has achieved and maintained its dominance through business practices designed to thwart competition.

“We are concerned about Google’s control of so much of the information and commerce on the internet, and this power has been gained without transparency.

“Iowans are right to question what information Google collects and shares about them, how it targets them with advertising, how it chooses what information to prioritize, how it limits its access to new innovations, and how it does so on so many platforms and products.”

Miller added that, “We will go where the facts take us.”

Google operates a data center in Council Bluffs.

The probe marks the latest regulatory headache for the tech giant and its Silicon Valley peers, which have faced growing criticism that they’ve grown too big and powerful, undermining rivals and resulting in costlier or worse service for web users.

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Both the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission also are scrutinizing Big Tech, and Department of Justice officials issued Google their first legal demand for records at the end of August, according to a securities filing made by Google late Friday.

The search giant said it expected similar requests to come from state watchdogs.

Another group of state attorneys general — led by New York’s Letitia James — has commenced their own probe against Facebook, exploring whether it violates competition laws and mishandles consumers’ personal information. Iowa also is part of that probe.

For Google, the state and federal probes come more than six years after the Federal Trade Commission wrapped up an antitrust investigation into search and advertising and opted against major penalties against the company, including breaking it up.

In the meantime, Google has faced scrutiny around the world, particularly in Europe, where regulators have issued the company $9 billion in competition-related fines over the past three years.

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