The big 4 of the tech industry are under fire again. The Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives has penned a letter to the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google, asking them to deliver internal records. This is part of an ongoing series of investigations known as the antitrust investigations.
The demanded internal records involve private communications between the executives of the corporations involving major acquisitions conducted by the companies. These include the likes of Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp or Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Food. The House Judiciary Committee has also demanded Apple and Google to share internal communications regarding their search algorithms.
Data privacy has become a major issue in recent years. Big tech companies have been mishandling our data and everyone is finally beginning to see the repercussions of it. The primary goal of these antitrust investigations however is to determine if these tech giants have been using their power and influence to monopolize the industry.
Last week a bipartisan group launched an antitrust investigation against Facebook. New York attorney general, Letitia James, made the following statement regarding the investigation:
“We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.”
The letters sent today also focus on the same issues. The House Judiciary Committee has pointed out three major issues:
- Competition problems in digital markets
- Whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct online
- Whether existing antitrust laws, competition policies, and current enforcement levels are adequate to address these issues.
Here is a section from the letter penned to Apple CEO, Tim Cook:
The committee has even provided a deadline to these companies. Each company is required to provide the demanded information by October 14, 2019 (a month from today).
It is clear from this letter that this isn’t exactly a legal demand. The House Judiciary Committee has made a simple request to the tech giants and seem to be expecting full cooperation from these companies. But should any of them hesitate from providing the requested information, the House does have the right and power to force the information out of them. They could even hold hearings as they did with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year.
A bipartisan group is leading this particular investigation and it is only the latest in a series of investigations. On September 6, a bipartisan group of more than 30 state attorneys general launched an investigation against Facebook. On September 9, a bigger group of 50 state attorneys general (representing 48 different US states, all expect California and Alabama, the district of Colombia and Puerto Rico) launched another investigation into Google.
Facebook has announced that it will fully cooperate with the House in its investigation. Other companies are yet to respond to these series of investigations. We cannot really predict what this investigation could lead to, but the House could actually end up breaking up some of these Tech Giants into smaller companies.
Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are under fire. We will keep you updated.