The attorney general's office of Missouri has announced it's investigating whether Google broke the state's consumer protection and antitrust laws. AG Josh Hawley's statement expressly questioned the search giant's practices regarding collection of user data, potential content taken from competing websites and preferencing companies it owns in search results.
That last charge was central to the EU court's recent antitrust case against Google, for which it served the internet titan a record-setting $2.8 billion fine. But the search company has been punished before for illegally collecting and storing user data. In 2013, Google paid out $7 million to 37 states (and the District of Columbia) due to a 'rogue engineer' acquiring personal information (passwords, emails and the like) collected over unsecured WiFi by its Street View cars.
"There is strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with the best interest of Missourians in mind," Hawley said in a statement on the Missouri Attorney General's website. "My Office will not stand by and let private consumer information be jeopardized by industry giants, especially to pad their profits."
But as Reuters points out, Hawley, a Republican, is attempting to unseat the Democratic US Senator Claire McCaskill in the 2018 midterm elections. Asked during the press conference whether his office's Google inquiry has anything to do with the election, Hawley 'said he acted upon his oath of office and desire "to get to the truth."'
When reached for comment, Google spokesperson Patrick Lenihan said: "We have not yet received the subpoena, however, we have strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment."
- This article originally appeared on Engadget.