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Arizona AG joins multistate antitrust investigation into Google

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s attorney general announced this week he has joined a multistate antitrust investigation into Google.

“We are going to investigate Google’s dominant control of online advertising, their manipulation of search traffic, and whether that’s harming consumers here in Arizona,” Mark Brnovich told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show on Tuesday.

Brnovich said he is on an executive committee of eight attorneys general leading the probe.

He said part of their goal is to determine if Google is acting as a monopoly.

“What we have seen over the last several years is Google has consolidated its place in the market,” he said.

He’s also worried about the company’s data collection practices.

“What they’re doing is collecting detailed information on anyone that uses the internet,” he said.

“They’re using that information to manipulate everything from your news feeds, to advertising rates, to things that you see or don’t see on the internet.”

Ultimately, Brnovich said, it comes down to a question of if Google has too much power.

“You have one company that has the ability to literally, by changing its algorithm, to make or break any website, or any business,” he said.

He said he’s not sure what the outcome could be, but he doesn’t feel like issuing fines is enough to curb harmful behavior.

Europe’s antitrust regulators slapped Google with a $1.7 billion fine in March for unfairly inserting exclusivity clauses into contracts with advertisers, disadvantaging rivals in the online ad business.

“That’s just the cost of doing business,” Brnovich said. “And they’ll pay their fine … it’s a relatively minor part of their business, and they move on.”

One outcome antitrust regulators might explore is forcing Google to spin off search as a separate company, experts say.

Regulators also could focus on areas such as Google’s popular video site YouTube, an acquisition it scored in 2006.

California and Alabama are the only states not part of the investigation, which was announced Monday.

Google is headquartered in California and employs more workers there than in any other region. The company also broke ground last year on a $600 million data-center project in Alabama.

Mesa City Council approved a development agreement in July to have Google build a $1 billion data center in the city within five years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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