Google Facing Data Collection And Privacy Probe – Report

The legal teams at Alphabet’s Google division look set to be busy after it was reported the unit is facing an anti-trust investigation from US states.

According to the Washington Post, more than half of state attorneys general are preparing to announce an investigation into Google next week.

The group of 30 plus attorneys general are reportedly being led by Texas, and the investigation is slated to be announced on Monday 9 September.

Anti-trust probe

According to the Post, it is unclear whether some or all of the attorneys general also plan to open additional probes into other tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook, which have faced similar US anti-trust scrutiny of late.

The states’ effort is expected to be bipartisan.

Google was quoted by Reuters as stating that it was co-operating with the state officials.

“We continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector,” Google representative Jose Castaneda reportedly said.

So what aspects of Google’s behaviour do the US states find troubling?

There has been no clear answer in the media reports, but it is known that US officials are growing increasingly concerned at the power that big tech firms wield.

The probes are likely to centre on alleged data collection and privacy anti-trust violations.

This potential investigation will join other ongoing action. In July this year the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said it would investigate whether “market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.”

That antitrust investigation did not name any particular companies, but it is widely assumed it will include the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and maybe even Apple.

Long expected

The DoJ probe of tech giants had been widely expected by those in the know.

In June the US House of Representatives launched a probe into digital markets and “anti-competitive conduct” in the tech industry.

The US has been accused in the past of giving large tech companies a relatively free hand, even as in Europe firms such as Apple, Facebook and Google have been the target of wide-ranging probes and massive fines.

In June democratic senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren who has previously warned that tech companies “have too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” said that the head of the antitrust division within the US Department of Justice should not be involved in the competition investigation of Google and Apple.

She called on the DoJ’s antitrust division chief, Makan Delrahim, to recuse himself from the department’s antitrust investigations into Google and Apple.

Her reasoning is that his past lobbying for those two companies raised conflict of interest concerns.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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