Shook Data Security & Privacy Chair Weighs in on Probe of Google’s Use of Personal Data

Missouri’s Google Probe May Signal More Aggressive Enforcement

By Christopher Brown, Bloomberg BNA

Missouri may be signaling a more aggressive privacy enforcement posture with its recent announcement of a broad investigation into how Alphabet Inc.'s Google uses consumer data.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) Nov. 13 announced that the state is investigating Google and released the civil investigative demand letter he sent to the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant. Missouri doesn’t have a reputation among practitioners as an aggressive enforcer of privacy and data-security laws, but Hawley’s announcement could signal a changed climate, Alfred J. Saikali, chairman of the data security and privacy practice at Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP in Miami, Fla., told Bloomberg Law.

Among the issues being investigated is how Google collects and uses personal data, and the privacy promises it makes to consumers. The demand letter seeks documents and answers to questions on the company’s privacy policies, among other things, and gives Google until Jan. 22, 2018, to comply.

“If I’m a company with business in Missouri, I’m double checking my consumer-facing privacy promises today to make sure we’re complying with them,” Saikali said. Hawley’s investigation “does suggest that Missouri has become a place to watch where enforcement could become more active.”

A spokeswoman for Hawley told Bloomberg Law that no other state has conducted a similar investigation into Google’s practices.

Other states could join Missouri in the investigation.

“It’s already a very serious matter for Google when one state attorney general starts an investigation, but other states could sign on, and there may even be talks going on behind the scenes about that right now,” Saikali said.

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