An unusual coalition, including the Trump administration and Republicans and Democrats in Congress, is calling for an antitrust investigation into Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
The tech giants wield incredible control over Americans’ lives. And they have allowed people’s privacy to be invaded. They profit from selling users data, often without them knowing. They allow fictitious and malicious posts to influence our politics, including Russia’s well-documented attack on our election system in 2016.
And the tech leaders buy up their competitors and have repeatedly shown they are uninterested in self-policing to protect consumers.
While Europe has been more aggressive in reining in the worst of big-tech practices, the United States’ government has largely sat on the sidelines as the behemoths grew bigger and stifled competition. When Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, the promising startup was relatively small but its potential in Facebook’s hands immense. The federal government waived through the purchase, leading to Instagram now being a giant of its own, under the wing of Facebook.
The four big companies have bought up hundreds of competitors in recent years.
That’s why launching antitrust investigations and looking at breaking up the biggest tech companies are necessary. But that process will take years and it’s not without complications. Regulators would have to determine which monopolies are most harmful to competition and consumers and how to break companies up and regulate them better moving forward.
While that process plays out, Congress can act much more swiftly to overhaul privacy regulations to better protect Americans.
California already has a law, which will kick in next year, that gives consumers there the right to learn what companies like Facebook and Google know about them — and stop the sharing or selling of their data. If companies fail to protect their information and allow data breeches, consumers can sue.
But having a patchwork of regulations from individual states isn’t the best approach. Uniform national privacy standards would better serve consumers and be more workable for tech companies.