On July 29, 2020 Congress raised concerns about antitrust issues and competitive fairness to the CEOs of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and more. The congressional hearing has the potential to be a historic and progressive moment for the US considering the four most powerful tech companies head figures all appeared in front of Congress via person or video call in Washington DC. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and for the first time ever the world’s wealthiest man Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos were all questioned about their industry practices and approach to industry competition.
Jeff Bezos’s first appearance revolved around Amazon’s approach to how it uses third-party sellers’ data, pricing, and acquisitions . Bezos admitted there is a policy restricting the use of data from third party vendors to benefit Amazon’s own private label sector, however he said himself to Congress “I can’t guarantee you that policy has never been violated.” Bezos himself pretty much admitted to using third party data to help create products and services to ensure they would crush or keep up with any sort of competition. Amazon’s data collection of its vendors and their usage of personal data in their growing ad targeting business is a significant cause for concern. Hopefully, shining a light on these practices during this hearing will cause larger awareness in these mass breaches of privacy.
Google’s Sundar Pichai hearing was related to their usage of personal data in curating political bias, something that the company has been accused of in the past. respond to the Republican Floridian Rep. Gregory Steube, who questioned Google’s political bias. Steube argued that his relatives, friends, and supporters who are signed up for his email campaign often get those emails automatically stored in spam or blocked entirely. Pichai simply said, “There’s nothing in the algorithm that has anything to do with political ideology.” He went on to tell the Representative he is not the only politician who deals with that issue stating both sides have voiced complaints about that. While Google’s political bias can be argued, their influence on the media is undeniable. Most of today’s digital news coverage is written specifically to garner the highest Google search results and drive the most traffic. With this level of power to influence American discourse, Google rightfully must be questioned on how they allow decisions to be made on these topics.
Questioning all four of these industry titans into one room at the same time will be looked back on as a historic moment in American history. Investigation over their data practices, which has turned these companies into monopolies in the verticals each of them dominate, must be conducted even further to ensure the American public is not turned into a surveillance state through technology companies.