Missouri Attorney General, Josh Hawley, has issued an investigative subpoena to Google, Inc., in connection with an investigation into the company’s business practices.

A press release from AG Hawley's Office says the investigation will seek to determine if Google has violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, which is considered Missouri’s principal consumer-protection statute, and Missouri’s antitrust laws.

The alleged business practices in question are Google’s collection, use, and disclosure of information about Google users and their online activities; Google’s alleged misappropriation of online content from the websites of its competitors; and Google’s alleged manipulation of search results to preference websites owned by Google and to demote websites that compete with Google.

“There is strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with the best interest of Missourians in mind,” Hawley said. “My Office will not stand by and let private consumer information be jeopardized by industry giants, especially to pad their profits.”

Hawley says this is not the first-time Google’s business practices have come into question. In June, the European Union issued Google a record $2.7 billion antitrust fine. Then in July, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a Google program that tracks consumer behavior.

In addition to online users’ location, device information, cookie data, online queries, and website history, it is estimated that Google has access to 70 percent of all card transactions in the United States.

“When a company has access to as much consumer information as Google does, it’s my duty to ensure they are using it appropriately,” Hawley said. “I will not let Missouri consumers and businesses be exploited by industry giants.”

The Kansas City Star reports that Google spokesman, Patrick Lenihan, said in an email  that the company has not yet received the subpoena. Lenihan said Google has “strong privacy protections in place for our users and continue to operate in a highly competitive and dynamic environment.”

Randy Kirby