Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is currently running for Senate, recently launched an investigation into Google’s privacy practices, as well as its competitive tactics.
Hawley worries that Google doesn’t properly safeguard its massive stockpile of users’ personal private information, and rather just utilizes the data for its own gain, according to Axios, who interviewed the fresh-faced law enforcement leader. He also is skeptical about potentially anti-competitive behavior from Google.
When asked what made him officially go through with the investigation, he said one particular contributing moment was when the European Commission levied a record fine of $2.7 billion against Google for antitrust violations, specifically the alleged act of favoring its price-comparison search results over those of its rivals.
“We thought that that was significant and gave some credence to those,” he said.
Also, “frankly, the Equifax security breach was significant,” Hawley told Axios. “I think, for really opening people’s eyes to just how much personal information is out there held by tech companies and credit scoring companies and others — and how vulnerable that information really can be.” (RELATED: Equifax Bigwigs Sold More Than A Million In Stock After Data Breach)
A state law enforcement agency going through with its own investigation into a massive tech conglomerate is somewhat rare, and could conceivably be a political move to show his state’s electorate that he cares deeply about their privacy, and won’t kowtow to a powerful private company’s deep-pocketed influence.
Hawley, who is competing with multiple others for the Republican nomination, is hoping to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2018. McCaskill for the most part was accepting of Hawley’s probe, but clarified that she hoped it wouldn’t divert attention and resources away from other cases of potential fraud, reports Axios.
Hawley says constituents are “deeply concerned about the safety of their personal information,” particularly “what is being collected, who has control of it and what might be being done with this information.”
When asked if other companies like Facebook and Amazon should be included in the investigation, or looked into separately, he said at least not at this point.
“It is our firm belief and, I think, Google’s too, that no company in the history of the world has collected more personal information about its users than Google has,” Hawley said, according to Axios. “So beginning there, I think, makes a good deal of sense.”
One possible show of success for Hawley would be sparking a more broad conversation about how much personal data people will “trade in order to interact with these internet-based platforms.”
Hawley, though, was sure to say that his office would be investigating Google “whether or not I was seeking any other office.” He also added that tech tycoon Peter Thiel, who reportedly donated to his campaign for attorney general, did not influence his decision.
“I don’t make my decisions based on what individual supporters or others want me to do,” he said, according to Axios.
Combatting, or at least confronting tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, has become way more politically palatable, if not more widely supported in recent months. Both public officials and portions of the larger public have been protesting the growing powers of Google and the rest of Silicon Valley, due to concerns of monopolistic-type control, and a susceptibility to be exploited by foreign actors trying to spread disinformation. (RELATED: This Startup Wants To Take Some Power Away From Tech Giants)
Hawley could be simultaneously trying to get out ahead of a problem he finds legitimate and urgent, while also appealing to voters — killing two birds — one for his current role and another for his hopeful position — with one stone.
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