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States’ Google Antitrust Probe Will Dig Into Search, Android Too

Mark Bergen and Ben Brody

(Bloomberg) -- The multi-state antitrust investigation into Google will dig into its operations in search and mobile software, going beyond an initial focus on the company’s advertising business, according to two people familiar with the probe.

States including Iowa and North Carolina will take the helm to scrutinize Google’s search and Android operations, one of the people said. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will continue to lead the investigation into Google’s advertising business.

State officials met Monday in Denver, where they divided the work, according to the people familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified so they could discuss the law enforcement information. They also heard from experts who presented a range of concerns about the company, said a third person familiar with the talks.

A coalition of 48 state attorneys general opened a probe into Alphabet Inc.’s Google in September. Google is also the subject of a competition investigation by the Justice Department.

CNBC reported earlier on the enforcers’ interests.

Spokesmen for Google and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller declined to comment. A representative for North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and a spokeswoman for Paxton didn’t respond to requests for comment. Paxton’s office referred CNBC to comments it issued in October that said the states’ probe was focusing on ads, but that it would let facts uncovered during the course of the investigation lead the way.

Google dominates web search in the U.S., and rivals have complained that the company has prioritized its own services, such as travel and restaurant reviews, in results. Google’s Android operating system runs on a majority of the world’s smartphones. While the software is free, handset makers have to install Google apps like Gmail and YouTube as part of business agreements. Rivals have complained about those deals, too.

The European Union has fined Google on three separate competition cases involving the company’s practices in Android, advertising and shopping results in search.

--With assistance from David McLaughlin.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Bergen in San Francisco at mbergen10@bloomberg.net;Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at btenerellabr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Molly Schuetz, Sara Forden

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