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Attorney General accuses Google of withholding data in US court case

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed suit against Google, demanding that the search giant hand over documents related to the AG's antitrust investigation into the company.

Specifically, the petition accuses Google of withholding information and seeks a court order compelling Google to produce documents not subject to attorney-client privilege.

"While Google has produced a significant volume of documents in response to the [civil investigative demands] CIDs, Google has withheld a large volume of documents based on assertion of the attorney-client privilege and has claimed that certain documents that were produced are, in fact, privileged, and should be destroyed or returned to Google," according to the complaint, a copy of which was posted online by All Things D. "[But] Google has not met its burden of demonstrating that the privilege is applicable to many of the documents in question."

The case dates back to September 2010, when Google announced that Abbott was conducting an antitrust review of the company. Abbott was looking into whether Google intentionally buries search results that might promote its competitors.

The Texas case involved three companies - Foundem, SourceTool/TradeComet, and myTriggers - and Abbott asked for more information about Google's dealings with these companies. European antitrust regulators opened a similar investigation in February 2010.

According to this month's complaint, Abbott said Google has "produced several hundred thousand" documents on a rolling basis since August 2010. But it withheld at least 14,500 documents citing attorney-client privilege, and it is those documents in which Abbott is most interested.

The complaint said that earlier this year, Google lawyers identified a submitted document that they said was subject to attorney-client privilege, and requested that the AG's office delete it. Abbott, however, argued that the document in question did not involve a discussion between any attorney, and is not subject to that privilege.

"The Attorney General's office has identified at least four categories of deficiency in Google's privilege log, casting doubt on the propriety of withholding certain documents," the complaint said.

In a statement, a Google spokeswoman said "we have shared hundreds of thousands of documents with the Texas Attorney General, and we are happy to answer any questions that regulators have about our business."

US officials are also investigating Google's business.