State Investigators Widen Scope of Their Probe Into Google’s Data Handling 

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Regulators and law enforcement authorities across the United States are ready to turn up the heat on Google widening its investigation to include Google’s various subsidiaries.

50 State Attorney’s General are investigating the tech giant under the leadership of Texas Attorney General (AG) Ken Paxton, going beyond Google’s advertising business and past mergers into its search and Android operations.

Android and Search Businesses Included

Quoting people familiar with the matter, CNBC reported that the AGs are preparing Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) to backup their inquiry, as they believe that the Silicon Valley giant has been in gross violations of consumer data and privacy statutes.

The inquiry was initially launched by Paxton and his fellow attorneys general on September 9. At the time, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody believed Google’s actions could point to a consolidation of the online ads market, a move which would lead to the company becoming a modern-day monopoly and eradication of other companies looking to establish themselves in the space.

“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?” Moody asked.

However, the inquiry has only explicitly focused on Google’s ads business. Expanding its scope provides the regulators with much more to look into, and if Google or its subsidiaries violated consumer data and privacy laws.

Google and Its Businesses in the Spotlight

While the nature of these inquiries is yet to be understood, the Android platform, like several other big tech offerings, is no stranger to controversies concerning privacy and data access.

According to a report from the PrivacyCon service at the Federal Trade Commission, over 1,300 apps on the Android platform use evasive tactics for gaming user permissions and collecting data.

The study in question examined over 80,009 apps on the Google Play Store, keeping track of how apps use data after users deny them access to do so. As the researchers discovered, 1,326 apps were blatantly violating permissions. The apps used workarounds hidden in their code to hijack customers’ data from sources such as WiFi connections and metadata from pictures and other media.

Although Google is yet to comment on how it will deal with the new dimension that these investigations are taking, Kent Walker, the company’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs, claimed in a September 6 blog post that the company is ready to cooperate with investigators to the best of their ability.

What do you think about the government looking into Google? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Images are courtesy of Twitter, Shutterstock, Pixabay.

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