Google doesn’t have just the Department of Justice (DOJ) pursuing it in its own antitrust case. The company is now also being investigated by all 50 state attorneys general (AGs) over possible antitrust violations. The news follows another joint antitrust investigation between seven state AGs plus the AG from the District of Columbia against Facebook.
The bipartisan probe against Google is led by the Texas AG and includes state AGs from 47 other states, as well as from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The two states that didn’t participate in the probe are California, the home state of Google’s headquarters (as well as many other tech companies) and Alabama, where Google began the construction of a $600 million data center in 2018.
The state AGs said that one of the primary areas of investigations will be Google’s dominance in search, as well as the company’s potential monopolistic behavior. Google has been accused that it unfairly hurts competition and consumers.
Florida state attorney general Ashley Moody, questioned the privacy trade-off people make when they use Google’s services for free:
"When there is no longer a free market or competition, this increases prices, even when something is marketed as free, and harms consumers. 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."
State-Level Probe Follow Other Antitrust Investigations
According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, the DOJ has also begun its own antitrust investigation into Google. The FTC staff that investigated Google’s alleged anti-competitive behavior in 2010 recommended antitrust action against the company, but then FTC chairman, Jon Leibowitz, chose to reject that recommendation.
At the time, Google’s lobbyists also found easy access to President Obama’s White House, breaking a 40-year precedent in which presidents stayed clear of antitrust investigations.
Google wasn’t so fortunate in the European Union, where the European Commission also started multiple antitrust investigations in the same period of time, involving Google’s alleged anti-competitive behavior in regards to Google Shopping, Android, and Google Ads. These probes recently culminated with three fines totaling almost $10 billion.
The EC continues to investigate Google’s anti-competitive behavior in a fourth antitrust investigation, which is related to how Google handles job search in its search engine.
Over the past decade, Google has been one of the biggest political donors in Washington, but this time around, the political environment is much less favorable to Google. Both President Trump and various Democratic presidential candidates have been critical of Google. Elizabeth Warren even suggest she’d look into breaking the company up and splitting off some of the companies Google has acquired such as DoubleClick, Nest, and Waze.