According to The Verge, the European Union’s antitrust watchdog is investigating whether companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon are using their digital assistants (Siri, Alexa) and other smart products to build themselves into monopolies. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the probe into the Internet of Things sector, with the focus of the investigation making sure consumers are not too engaged or enwrapped in one environment of systems. For example, Amazon and Alexa with all of their different smart home devices and apps can track and surveil someone for a majority of their day, taking personal and private information and selling it to any advertisers interested.
Vestager is concerned that through various voice assistants, smart devices, other hardware these companies will learn a significant amount about people’s daily habits. With so much personal data under their control, if it were ever to be misused or handled by the companies, it would affect millions if not billions of consumers. Think of how much data Apple deals with on a daily basis just from smartphones alone. Now add all of their various devices which all now have Siri capabilities such as the Apple watch, AirPods, iPads, Macbooks and desktops. All of these devices are listening to you and tracking you 24/7 because they all have voice assistant functions and Siri listens to everything whether you activate her or not.
These companies are all so powerful and popular that they can make their devices only operate with other devices from their brand causing competitors to immediately lose out, even if they’re hardware is superior. All three of these companies also have shady histories with user privacy and collecting consumer data without consent. Google currently has at least two lawsuits against them, one in Arizona for collecting location data without consent, and one in California for tracking and collecting users’ data when they were browsing in “incognito mode”.
There are plenty more, those are just the most recent two. All three companies have had antitrust investigations or lawsuits launched and filed against them before.The EU’s probe is still in the preliminary stages, but Vestager hopes to have a report published by the spring of 2021, with hopefully more legal action to follow.