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    DoJ Seeks Google Records as Scrutiny of Silicon Valley Intensifies

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    Lawmakers and activists have recently raised concerns about the growing dominance of online tech giants, spurring a coalition of US states to launch separate antitrust probes into Facebook and Alphabet's Google unit in the first of an anticipated wave of actions against dominant technology firms.

    Google said on Friday that the US Department of Justice had requested the company provide records on previous antitrust investigations, confirming that the federal government was probing its business practices.

    "We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us," Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president of global affairs, said in a blog post.

    "The DOJ (Department of Justice) has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so," said Walker.

    Google was "one of America's top spenders on research and development, making investments that spur innovation: Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone," he stressed.

    Earlier in the week, The Wall Street Journal reported that state attorneys general were formally launching separate antitrust probes into Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, citing sources familiar with the matter.

    The news was reportedly to be officially announced at a news conference outside the US Supreme Court on 9 September.

    Whilst not directly naming the companies Washington has targeted in its probe, launched in July, the investigation appears centered on dominant tech players such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.

    Lawmakers and activists have raised concerns of late about the growing dominance of these online giants in key segments of the digital economy.

    The investigation led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will examine Google's impact on digital advertising markets.

    A separate investigation spearheaded by New York Attorney General Letitia James is targeting Facebook.

    “Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers. I am proud to be leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk,” James said.

    “We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising,” said James.

    Silicon Valley up for Scrutiny

    Silicon Valley has become a hot topic for regulators, as the tech industry's role in spreading misinformation and collecting the data of its users has landed it in the federal government's crosshairs.

    The offices of Cambridge Analytica (CA) in central London, after it was announced that Britain's information commissioner Elizabeth Denham is pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica's computer servers, Tuesday March 20, 2018
    © AP Photo / Kirsty O'Connor/PA
    The offices of Cambridge Analytica (CA) in central London, after it was announced that Britain's information commissioner Elizabeth Denham is pursuing a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica's computer servers, Tuesday March 20, 2018

    On 23 July scandal-hit social network Facebook agreed to pay a record $5 billion to resolve a US investigation into years of privacy violations, a settlement that also increased the board of directors’ responsibility for protecting users’ data, according to a Federal Trade Commission statement.

    The FTC probe was linked to the March 2018 disclosure that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly harvested data on tens of millions of Facebook users.

    An increasing chorus of US lawmakers have been calling for stricter regulation or even a break-up of big tech companies, over concerns in Congress and elsewhere over the influence of firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon.


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