Oklahoma and other states begin antitrust probe of Google

The growing multitude of stories of how Google might be spying on its customers resulted in Oklahoma and 49 other states and territories on Monday announcing the start of an antitrust investigation of Google.

The Washington Post reported that only California and Alabama did not sign onto the movement that will result in a review of the tech giant that Republicans and Democrats alike say may threaten competition, consumers and the continued growth of the web.

Appearing on the steps of the Supreme Court, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton charged that Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” though he cautioned that despite his criticism the states had launched an investigation for now and not a lawsuit.

Paxton said the probe’s initial focus is online advertising. Google is expected to rake in more than $48 billion in U.S. digital ad revenue this year, far rivaling its peers, while capturing 75 percent of all spending on U.S. search ads, according to eMarketer.

“They dominate the buyer side, the seller side, the auction side and the video side with YouTube,” he said during a news conference alongside officials from 11 states and the District of Columbia.

Some of those attorneys general appeared to raise additional complaints about Google, ranging from the way the company processes and ranks search results to the extent to which it may not fully protect users’ personal information. Their early rebukes raised the stakes for Google, threatening top-to-bottom scrutiny of its sprawling business beyond just ads. Paxton promised the probe would go wherever the facts lead.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a dominant player when it’s done fairly,” said Sean Reyes, the Republican attorney general of Utah. He said there is a “presumption” of innocence in such an investigation but still said there is a “pervasiveness” to complaints about Google’s business practices.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has yet to offer any public comment about joining the call for the antitrust probe.

Oklahoma is home to one of Google’s massive data center complexes located in Mayes County.  The company announced in June (OK Energy Today) a $600 million expansion of the center at Pryor. The expansion increased Google’s investment in Oklahoma to more than $3 billion. The expansion also means the data center will have employment of nearly 600 workers.

Google announced the continued expansion of its Oklahoma data center in Mayes County to a total investment of more than $3 billion, with increased local employment to more than 500 people.