On Friday, news broke that the Justice Department was opening an antitrust probe into Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Since then, other tech giants have also gotten the same news. Including Apple, Amazon and Facebook. For Apple, the news couldn’t come at a worse time, as it just kicked off its annual developers conference in San Jose.
These antitrust probes are actually being split between the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the Justice Department. The FTC will look into Amazon and Facebook, while the Justice Department will lookin into Apple and Google.
Many US presidential candidates have been calling for big tech to be broken up. Most notably, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). In the past few months, she has been calling for these tech companies to be broken up, because they have gotten so big. And it’s hard to disagree with her. Just look at all of the areas that Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook have their hands in.
Amazon and Facebook are still web companies, but also have their own hardware with Echo and Portal. They also shape how users use the internet and what services it uses. Amazon, in particular, has AWS (Amazon Web Services), which is responsible for hosting a bevy of websites on the Internet. In fact, when AWS went down a couple of years ago, you could really see just how many websites rely on AWS. And it was a big number. Google has the same thing with Google Cloud. Google also controls much of the internet, from search, to email, to file storage and even video sharing. Just to name a few.
Meanwhile, Apple is being told it’s a monopoly. Which led to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook stating numerous times after the WWDC keynote yesterday that Apple is not a monopoly. Now some might say it is a monopoly, since it doesn’t let its software run on other products. Like macOS only runs on Apple’s laptops and desktops, etc. But it’s far from a monopoly the way a company like Qualcomm is.
These antitrust investigations are gaining steam and both houses of Congress are also opening up their own investigations into big tech. Which likely means that new regulations are on the way.
Big tech is actually in favor of regulations, especially after the 2016 presidential election, where it was clear that Russia interfered in the election. While testifying in front of Congress last year, Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said that they need to be regulated. Now, Apple’s CEO is also saying they need regulation.
These companies are in a point of time that hasn’t been seen before. We are relying more and more on these four companies, which operate a majority of the internet, and it’s only getting worse. Some might think that these companies are predatory, but without any regulation, there’s no reason for them to stop doing what they are doing. And privacy should be a big deal for these companies, given the number of users they have, and it’s not.