Google business practices harmful to consumers, AGs say

Their company motto is "Don't be evil," but top prosecutors in three states say Google's business practices could be harmful to consumers, and they're demanding that the search giant change its ways.

The state attorneys general in Virginia, Hawaii and Mississippi want Google to change the way it displays search results, as well as the ads allowed on Google-owned YouTube.

They haven't filed any charges, but they have blasted the company for business practices they say help facilitate the sale of illegal and counterfeit goods.

The AGs say their investigation shows that because of the "autocomplete" feature, Google searches often lead people to sites that sell counterfeit goods.

They're also unhappy that sites selling counterfeit goods are advertising with Google or YouTube.

The three AGs specifically accuse Google of "Assisting in the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription and intentionally ignoring reports of rogue pirate sites selling stolen music, movies, software and video games."

Google says it has been working to fight the problem and has made great success.

"In the last two years, we've removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies, and we routinely remove videos that are flagged for violating YouTube's guidelines regarding dangerous or illegal content," Google's spokesman Aaron Stein said in a statement to the Associated Press.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood states that even though Google addresses these issues when there's publicity, the ads always go back up again.

Hood announced yesterday that he will now subpoena Google's business records.

"Making sure ads appearing on Google and our partner sites are safe continues to be a top priority," Adam Barea, the company's legal director wrote in a blog post.

Google has not responded to Hood's announcement.


Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website for more detailed information.