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Antitrust investigation on Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple: Why are they in trouble?

The war of the Capitol against technology companies heats up. The largest US companies – Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple – were invited to submit information as part of an ongoing antitrust investigation. They call for more transparency in their data collection practices – and explore the possibility of corrupt practices to paralyze competition.

The investigation includes the antitrust investigation initiated by Attorney General of 50 states against Google earlier this week. Under the guidance of Texas AG, Ken Paxton, his announcement has captured the sentiment towards these technology giants. Concern over the "overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic, which may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers," Paxton said.

Immense power in the hands of less

We acknowledge these technology giants for their services. Google for his search engine; Apple for tech products; Amazon for e-commerce; and Facebook to literally invent social media. But behind these services are advertising agencies (well, minus Apple, but we'll go straight into it).

Companies go to Google, Facebook and Amazon to publish their goods and services. It's hard to imagine a different online advertising platform than this one. According to eMarketer, Facebook holds over 22% of the US market share for digital advertising. Google tops the race with over 37% of the market, not to mention almost 75% of the search ad market. These relate to the ads that appear in your browsers and to the layout of your feeds and results in your search engines.

Given the limited options companies need for Internet surfing, this is a lot of control. The power in the hands of these few giants means that corrupt practices can have a massive impact on consumers of whom we know nothing. When much of what we promote comes from Google and Facebook, they literally affect the things we want.

So it's no problem to worry a little about what's in the advertising algorithms of these top companies. Anticompetitive and anti-social practices and the violation of privacy are all pressing concerns.

The possibilities are endless. Businesses can dissuade communications from competitors from the demographic target group. With Microtargeting, you can control who gets specific ads and messages. Facebook has a history of discriminatory microtargeting options, such as age and ethnicity, that could be manipulated by advertisers. Google has loads of our personal information from our photos, projects, and documents on the drive, and links to any other website that we conveniently sign into Google. How these are used is still a mystery.

Beyond Marketing Data

Apple is not currently known for its advertising solutions. But there is still enough data to make the authorities nervous. Only this week, Apple's anti-competitive behavior in the App Store has returned to the spotlight.

It was accused of taking popular ideas from apps in their app store and integrating them into their own software. These powerful apps are inevitably driven out of business.

Apple's ambitions go far beyond phones and devices and continue to extend to services. This week's Apple event has brought products like the iPhone 1

1 and its services to the limelight. Presented were Apple TV, music, games, iCloud, and news services, all of which offer tremendous potential for data collection. Apple is not all about iPhones and MacBooks anymore.

The very specific details required by the Capitol of these companies now require transparency. They may reveal an overwhelming amount of ethical dilemmas – or none – but it is certainly necessary to describe in more detail how these companies use this data.

Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple have all until October 14, 2019 to reply to the long list of state inquiries.

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