The simmering debate over whether big internet companies are breaking antitrust rules to extend their dominance has a new front - Missouri.
Attorney General Josh Hawley's office said on Monday that it issued a subpoena to investigate if Google's use of information that it collects about consumers is appropriate and if the company stifles competing websites in search results.
Hawley, who recently announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, said that the investigation was prompted in part by the recent fine levied against Google by European antitrust regulators for favoring its own search results, and concerns that Google was engaging in similar behavior in the United States.
Federal regulators in the USA also have investigated the company over antitrust claims, but Google settled with the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 without making any major concessions on how the company runs its internet search engine. "This misappropriation hurts business and it threatens to drive Google's competitors out of the market". Hawley said the Federal Trade Commission under former President Barack Obama "did not take any enforcement action against Google, did not press this forward and has essentially given them a free pass".
The idea that Google was unfairly suppressing search results for its competitors got scant traction in the USA after the FTC concluded in 2013 that the company wasn't trying to stifle competition. The European Union is also investigating Google over its Android mobile platform and its AdSense for Search service.