'How do you know we're not investigating?' California attorney general says after sitting out multistate Google probe

Key Points
  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the public knows little more about the multistate probes than anything his office is looking into.
  • Becerra's office was one of two states to sit out of an antitrust probe into Google by attorneys general from 50 states and territories.
  • Asked about the lack of participation at a press conference on proposed rules for California's new privacy law, Becerra said, "How do you know we're not investigating?"
California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

When attorneys general from 50 states and territories announced a joint antitrust investigation into Google, many were left with one big question: Why isn't California investigating?

On Thursday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra answered that question with one of his own: "How do you know we're not investigating?"

Google and Facebook are both headquartered in California, and a state-sponsored investigation could add much-needed resources to the effort to take on Big Tech. States generally have far fewer resources than federal regulators to take on big investigations, but California's population and tax base are significant enough to make a difference.

Alabama was the only other state that sat out.

Becerra said his department does not comment on investigations, declining to confirm or deny any probe but saying, "stay tuned." The public knows little more about the announced probes than about what could be happening within the California AG's office, Becerra told reporters at a news conference announcing draft rules for California's landmark privacy act.

"What do you know about the investigation that was announced?" Becerra asked of the multistate probe. "We could make a lot of announcements. We get results. We're going to get things done."

Becerra hinted that anti-competitive issues among tech companies are on his radar, pointing to the proposed regulations he announced Thursday.

"We're fully aware of what's going on in this digital economy and we are cognizant of the need to provide consumers with true protections," Becerra said. "We will continue to do what we must to protect the people of our state and we will certainly act on any leads."

Becerra said he recognizes the desire for Californians to understand whether his office is looking into highly publicized issues like tech, saying it can seem "a little harsh" to not make an announcement, particularly if the department were to choose to close a case without any action.

"We're looking at that to see if we can give Californians the kind of information they're entitled to," he said.

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