48 US states and two territories - missing only California and Alabama - have announced the launch of a massive investigation into Google's advertising and search businesses, looking for evidence that the company has abused its market dominance.
Google, along with parent company Alphabet, is no stranger to an antitrust probe or two: The company was fined £1.29 billion by the European Commission back in March, on top of a £44.7 million GDPR fine from France's CNIL in January, and that's after a whopping £3.78 billion fine in July 2018 and £2.2 billion in June 2017.
The latest probe into the company's activities, however, may be the largest yet: 50 US Attorneys General, representing all states bar California and Alabama plus two US territories, have announced they are working together on an investigation into Google's search and advertisings practices.
First reported by CNBC, the case will see the states and territories investigating whether the company is abusing its dominance to shut out smaller rivals and gather increasing amounts of data on its users without their express, informed consent. 'When there is no longer a free market or competition, this increases prices, even when something is marketed as free, and harms consumers,' Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, leading the investigation, told attendees at the press conference announcing the move. 'Is something really free if we are increasingly giving over our privacy information? Is something really free if online ad prices go up based on one company’s control?'
'We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us,' Google's senior vice president for global affairs Kent Walker stated in a blog post late last week, after the company had been informed of the investigation but before it had been announced to the public. 'The DOJ [US Department of Justice] has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.'
The opening of the investigation comes mere days after the New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a similar antitrust investigation into social media giant Facebook covering seven states and the District of Columbia.
April 12 2021 | 14:00