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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Major scrutiny awaits for Big Tech

Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple could face new restrictions on their power as House Judiciary Committee heads an antitrust probe into their conduct and business.

india Updated: Jul 25, 2019 11:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are seen in a combination photo from Reuters files.
The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are seen in a combination photo from Reuters files.(REUTERS/File Photo)
         

American authorities have announced a broad review of the power and influence technology companies such as Facebook and Google wield over concerns that these may now be too big and too powerful – and even calls by some to “break them up”

THE CONCERNS

Critics and experts say the worries go beyond monopolistic behaviour, and involve issues that deal with privacy and politics

With Facebook

The company has 2.7 billion users on its main website, and with Instagram and WhatsApp as its other key services, it controls the data of at least a billion more. The company has faced criticism over the privacy of this data, particularly since the Cambridge Analytica scandal showed misuse and manipulations were possible. On Wednesday, another US agency, the Federal Trade Commission, announced that Facebook has agreed to a settlement of $5 billion for privacy violations. Facebook also agreed to pay a $100 million penalty for misleading securities regulators.

With Google

Critics say Google’s dominance in search has allowed it to squash rivals - notably because Google can show its own products above competitors’ or feature its own ads prominently. Google has also faced scrutiny over the practices to get its search and other products featured on phones. A third major concern is its hold on advertising. The company has been fined €8 billion by EU over antitrust practices in the three areas.

With Amazon

Amazon dominates e-commerce in several countries and has faced scrutiny into whether it is using data to gain an edge on third-party merchants, who are both its customers and rivals. One Congressman has said Amazon rolled out replicas under its own brand and then steered customers to its own products. US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin on Wednesday accused Amazon of “destroying” retail industry.

The investigations

The United States department of justice’s (DoJ) antitrust division announced it will investigate whether these companies are using their power to thwart competition. Separately, a US legislative committee also began an unprecedented antitrust probe into Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple over their aggressive business practices.

First Published: Jul 25, 2019 11:16 IST

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