Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook. Everyone knows their names, and most people are in one way or another connected to one of these companies. At least 60% of people own an Apple device, between 80-90% of searches are done with Google, a majority of Americans are Prime members, and over 2.1 BILLION people use one of Facebook’s services every day. It’s safe to say that nearly none of us can avoid the ever-growing presence of these corporations in our lives. But in the near future four companies are at risk of investigation. The complaints against each are fairly similar. Is the consolidation of power giving tech giants the ability to crush competitors unfairly? Here’s a summary of possible investigations against each of them:
Google: Search Results
Google may be accused of manipulating search results to unfairly promote its own services over other companies. Google flights, Google Careers and Google maps are all services that compete with hundreds of others like them. So does Google give each a fair chance? Maybe not. Their search engine is so efficient, that according to the New York Times, half of all google searches end on Google, without using another link. In the end, it will be about the balance of convenience and impartiality for the consumer, a difficult balance to strike.
Facebook: Social Media Monopoly
Facebook has been attracting attention from antitrust regulators for some time now, after acquisitions of huge communications applications, including Instagram and WhatsApp. Some argue those acquisitions violate the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts and are therefore concerned about user privacy. However Facebook defends claims of a monopoly with the rapid growth of competitors like Snapchat and TikTok, whose younger user base Facebook is trying to maintain.
Apple: The App Store
The App Store is the place where apple can provide many services to its customers, but it is also the place where its competitors offer their services. Apple controls what apps are advertised and how, and even what apps make it to the App Store at all. Though Apple’s control over the store help decrease fraudulent apps, it also raises the question: is Apple purposefully promoting its own apps over competitors?
Amazon: Product Promotion
When Amazon was founded, it sold items that it bought from other sellers, like traditional retailer. Now, it allows third-party sellers sell directly to customers, and has more than 140 private labels. This has many questioning how unbiased Amazon’s ad service really is. Are items marked “Amazon’s choice” or “Editor’s choice” really reliable signs of quality? For example, Italy’s antitrust authority is currently investigating whether Amazon favors merchants who sell through its fulfillment service (which packages and ships items).
The debate over how much power should be given to these companies will not end soon. They are reaching unprecedented rates of global influence, and it will be up to the next generation to decide whether that is an advantage or danger to consumers. Either way, it is something we should all be thinking about.
By Veronika Souzek