UK investigates Google, Facebook for potential ‘abuse of power’

Mark Sweney for The Guardian

The UK competition watchdog has launched an investigation into the way Google and Facebook collect and exploit personal data and have used their power to dominate the £13bn UK digital advertising market.

The Competition and Markets Authority’s wide-ranging investigation into online advertising will focus on the sector’s two biggest players, Google and Facebook, and look at whether “consumers are able and willing to control how data about them is used and collected”.

… The CMA will also investigate whether there has been any abuse of power by the US technology firms, which derive a vast amount of their revenues from advertising. Google and Facebook have been forecast to control more than 70% of the UK digital ad market next year, making it harder for rivals to compete, to the detriment of consumers.

MacDailyNews Take: What possible abuse of power could exist when the world’s biggest search company is also the world’s biggest ads company and builds the world’s biggest mobile OS? With the world’s biggest social media company owning most of the other ads?

30 Comments

  1. To paraphrase: What possible abuse of power could exist when the world’s only iOS company is also the world’s only iPhone company and builds the world’s only App store for iOS? With no option for any other outlet to vend iOS Apps?

    1. this is only a problem if consumers can’t get hundreds of other phones which they can. Developers can build apps for hundreds of other phones (80% of market) and don’t build for Apple if they are unhappy.

      Isn’t Apple different than the other 80% actually MORE CHOICE instead of forcing Apple to open just like them?

      Also people saying Apple is a monopoly is like saying Kentucky Fried Chicken is a monopoly because KFC is the ONLY one with that ‘Secret Blend of Spices’ ignoring all the other chicken places just like people ignore all the other phones .

      1. The App store IS a monopoly as long as it sells Apps from 3rd party developers. There is no other venue for them to sell iOS Apps. Even KFC doesn’t force Pepsi/Coca Cola (3rd party food source) to only sell through KFCs.

        1. you analogy is off , you are supporting my view

          pepsi cola etc can sell to hundreds of other chicken places just like app makers can sell to hundreds of other phones

          But to sell to KFC they have to follow terms set by KFC. You can’t just set up a booth selling your lemonade in a KFC restaurant without permission or following KFC rules or paying them a share.

          can Pizza Hut set up a booth in KFC where you can order pizzas and eat in the KFC without paying KFC anything?
          Can amazon set up a booth for online sales in Walmart stores without following Walmart’s terms? But people say unlike Walmart Apple can’t control its store.

          The situation with Microsoft was different in the past as it controlled and still does 90% of the PC market.

          IPhone has just 20%. Phone uses have choice from hundreds of other phones if they don’t like Apples policies.

          You say they don’t have a choice as they want iOS. So why do consumers want iOS? One big reason BECAUSE OF THE SAFE CURATED APP STORE!
          turning into an open Hellstew of Malware Spyware like Android is better?

          Ask yourself why the CEO of Huawei says he and his family uses iPhones. The CFO of Huawei arrested in Vancouver had an iPhone 7, a Macbook and an IPad. Huawei leaders are scared of android security issues in spite of being one of the biggest android OEMs in the world.

          1. following my analogy the reason why Google can allow anyone to come into their store (the Android eco system) and sell stuff is because ‘selling stuff’ is not their main aim.

            their aim is to attract people into their store so that these customers can be scanned and stripped of their personal info and have trackers like spyware loaded on them.

          2. Supporting your point of view as you describe above would also mean that the same ‘recipe’ for Coke/Pepsi is being used for all chicken places. iOS Apps have a different ‘recipe’ than Android Apps. Coke/Pepsi does not change their beverage for each vendor, the contents in a KFC drink cup will be identical to that of another chicken places’ beverage cup for the same product, whereas a developer must change their app to work on a different platform.

            No one is asking to build a 3rd party App Store in the iOS App Store. The availability of 3rd party iOS App Stores allows developers that wish to vend iOS Apps that Apple refuses to accept based on policies that deny apps that are otherwise fully compliant with Apple’s stated privacy and security policies.

            The rest of your text presumes to know the reasons behind others choosing iOS, which may be only a part of their owned devices consisting of other OSes including Android. Choosing iOS “Because of the safe curated App Store” in no way detracts from having the option to choose to use a 3rd party iOS App Store if you so wish. The wealthy in general like the status that comes from purchasing Apple products, especially in China, and that may be a greater factor for choosing Apple over security issues.

          3. Or they could not sell to KFC if they don’t like KFC’s terms, there are still other stores to sell through.

            But writing an iOS app has very specific technical requirements. And there’s only one store to distribute from. 100% iOS app monopoly.

            1. ” like KFC’s terms, there are still other stores to sell through. But writing an iOS app has very specific technical requirements. And there’s only one store to distribute from. 100% iOS app monopoly.”

              What makes you think other chicken stores don’t have different rules than KFC? Maybe they require the soda to be in special containers, so manufacturers (developers) have to adjust to the target.

              . Also KFC chooses what products to sell, nobody says KFC has to open up it’s stores for any manufacturer off the street.

              Saying iOS is different is very narrow like I mentioned equal to saying KFC is different simply due to it’s special blend of spices.

              Other phones run apps, do text, make phone calls, call 911, access the internet etc.
              There are MORE SIMILARITIES between iPhones and other phones than differences.

              There is NO Apple phone monopoly. People really have to stretch things into pretzel shape to make the definition of 20% market share of anything as a monopoly .

              “no way detracts from having the option to choose to use a 3rd party iOS App Store if you so wish”
              You might like that option just as I would like TESLA to sell me their expensive model at $14,000 like a Hyundai. Your point is ?

            2. Same product one channel. You can’t even sell your app directly and the owner if the device can’t buy directly. Stop, just stop.

            3. PS-Tesla is selling their own product as they wish, not because some retailer tells them how.

              Schools over. I hope a regulator reads your comments.

        2. Nope. If Apple’s App Store is anything untoward, it is a monopsony, not a monopoly. Look up the meaning of your terms.

          However, if Apple’s App Store is a monopsony then so is the Android Play Store and so is every retailer in the world. Nobody is screaming that Walmart needs to be broken up are they?

          Before you scream how iOS app vendors can’t sell wares anywhere else, let me ask you, ever heard of heard of Facebook, Netflix, or Pokémon Go? These are just a few of the literally millions of apps and games that are available on all ARM based platforms including: iOS, Android, Amazon Fire OS, numerous set top boxes, and smart TVs. In fact, Android has three times app the downloads of iOS. Software vendors have plenty of choices.

          Get thee some education…

          1. As you asked, I have looked up the meaning of the terms and Apple’s iOS App Store is not a monopsony (defined as ‘a market situation in which there is only one buyer.’) as you claim. Apple has and still claims that they do not buy iOS Apps from App developers to resell to consumers.

            Rather, as I have stated earlier, it is a monopoly (defined as ‘the exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service.) that exclusively controls the supply and trade of iOS apps. It appears it is you who does not understand the definitions of the terms you accuse me of not interpreting correctly. Turn about is fair play so I return your instruction to get some education yourself. 🙂

            You appear to also be mixing up the sales models of App Stores, in general, and ‘other’ retailers. App Stores take a cut of sales but never ‘own’ inventory of the product being sold. ‘Other’ retailers on the other hand purchase inventory and resell the product at whatever price they wish to set. The producer of the product, once sold to the retailer, has very little to no control over the final price offered to the consumer.

            1. “monopoly (defined as ‘the exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service”

              On hundreds of other phones besides the iPhone (80% of the market) you can make phone calls from other phones, access the internet, use most of the same apps, Call 911, text etc.
              so is iPhone “exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service” i.e do iPhones control the trade in phones’ ?
              ABSOLUTELY NOT.

              like I said iOS is only a monopoly if you consider iPhones fundamentally different from other phones. In a VERY NARROW sense (like saying “saying KFC is a monopoly because it’s the ONLY place you can get that ‘chicken with the Secret Blend of Spices’ ignoring all the hundreds of other fried chicken shops because they are narrowly different in cooking)

              does iPhones control or limit the ability of developers to write for hundreds of other phones (the other vast 80% of the market), again no.

              If you want to change iOS to be like (Hellstew of Malware) Android, you are actually REDUCING consumer choice. You are trying to make them more the same.

              Is Apple own apps a problem or unusual ? Walmart , Amazon also have their own store brands. They’ve had them for years, Walmart for decades. How come they’re not in trouble over that ?

              Doesn’t Walmart control what gets into it’s stores ? But Apple has to abide by a whole different set of laws that says it can’t ?

              Arguing that Apple has to allow access to it’s store because iOS is ‘different’ (than the other 80% of the market) is like arguing anybody can override Walmart and shove products onto it’s shelves without permission because Walmart is ‘different’ (than Target, Home Depot etc ).

            2. Fotobit, why are you expanding the argument to phones? Stick to the point which is that the iOS App Store IS a monopoly. If you can argue that it isn’t make that argument.

              I have no problem with Apple selling their in-house developed iOS Apps exclusively in their App Store. That’s their choice, however curating 3rd parth Apps that are otherwise compliant with Apple’s security and privacy policies REDUCES choice for reasons that consumers should be able to decide for themselves. Ergo my argument for 3rd party iOS App Stores.

            3. ” That’s their choice, however curating 3rd parth Apps that are otherwise compliant with Apple’s security and privacy policies REDUCES choice for reasons that consumers should be able to decide for themselves.”

              Can you say that Walmart should stock whatever I want because it’s better for me ? You’re arguing something like Walmart is reducing choice because it doesn’t allow Joe Blow BBQs (or something) to be sold in it’s store. Walmart curates everything in it’s store (platform).

              Don’t like Walmart go to Target. Don’t like iPhone go to the hundreds of other phones. (This is why I’m bringing up the fact that iPhone is not a monopoly. ). you can use Facebook on Android just like iOS etc.

              One of the reasons I’m so vehement is because you all want to turn iOS into Android and Android is a big freaking mess.

              that’s why like I say again the leader of Huawei uses iPhones. The CEO admits it and his daughter the CFO arrested in Canada had an iPhone 7, and an iPad and a Macbook. They like Apple devices for the security.

              Once you have third party stores you have lost control.

              Suppose an app you use can now ONLY be accessed in a third party app store, how do you know it’s not loaded with malware or spyware tracking you?
              Sometimes especially for business or communications there might not be substitute apps.

              Apps on Apple’s App store is not overpriced, in fact cheap, I don’t need the Android disaster for amorphous ‘choice’.

            4. see you guys don’t get it.’

              Recently Apple froze the Facebook app because it was doing stuff against app store rules, tracking teenagers etc.

              Techcrunch:

              “The shutdown comes in response to TechCrunch’s report on Tuesday (Jan 29) that Facebook has been using Apple’s program for internal app distribution to track teenage customers with a “research” app,”

              Supposing there are third party stores like you guys want and Facebook ONLY distributes it’s app OUTSIDE Apple.

              How can you know what the f-k they loaded on them?

              And for many people, like businesses not having Facebook is not a choice. they need it.

              Multiply this by millions of other apps.

              Now at least Apple can catch the worse of the violations.

      2. You don’t get it do you? The problem with the ios store isn’t that consumers can’t abandon Apple and buy roughly equivalent hardware and software somewhere else , at a significant time and changeover investment.

        The problem is that the ios store, being the only way for 3rd party developers to sell to ios users, have many disadvantages. they can never compete with Apple on price or quality because Apple reviews their software and Apple tacks on its obscene distribution fee. Apple also has the power to lift up or bury any app in its store page. Apple has monopoly power to yank an app for the weakest of reasons, and they can choose to slow walk an app review if their social justice warrior execs feel offended in any way.

        The lack of distribution options like the Mac has can and does hurt a lot of small developers. Watch over time as eventually the best most innovative software is available elsewhere first, unless Apple releases its grip on ios app distribution.

        ironic how most people here seem to be Americans but they are happy to put their freedom aside in order for their favorite unelected corporations to take more and more money and power. think about it. Apple isn’t always going to be run by a nice harmless little gay man. as all corporations grow up, the most psychotic executives rise to the top. always. are you going to be happy about monopoly powers then?

        1. Apple has no monopoly power. It has 20% phone market share. Developers have choice to hundreds of other phones plus many other platforms they can sell to.

          your argument is like saying Walmart is a monopoly because it decides what goes on its shelves. Walmart has its own ‘store brands too’ (likevApplevhas it’s own apps). Walmart’ takes a percentage from sales or charges per square foot of shelf space and decides what goes on its shelves, Don’t like Walmart’s terms manufacturers can sell at Target or hundreds of other places. likewise developers can sell to hundreds of other phones other than iPhone .

        2. “best most innovative software is available elsewhere first, unless Apple releases its grip on ios app distribution.“

          this has absolutely not happened. It is actually the reverse. Go look at earnings , most developers make way more on iOS due to protected app store. IOs gets the best and often first.

          On android developers are being destroyed by pirated copies of their apps on third party app stores. Some developers say 70-90% of their apps loaded on Android phones are pirated. Many pirated copies are cheaper or free, loaded with spyware and other malware. Don’t believe me go check it out yourself.

  2. In the past I wanted to believe that Google is a good company. I like Google’s products. Hell, if they had shown up at my door with one of their fiber connections, I’d probably still be defending them.

    Realistically, I have had to give up on that belief system and admit, they are fucking evil. Compared to Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft they are the Satan of cloud service vendors. There is almost no way for you to avoid being on their radar except to not use the Internet. They are clearly unethical. They have demonstrated they will use their power to attempt to clandestinely adjust search results to reflect their political opinions. They have shown that they will throw the people of totalitarian governments under the bus just for profit.

    I don’t like saying it, but there just might be an argument for breaking up Google.

  3. Facebook, I still want to believe is just plain stupid. I don’t know if they have one, but they need to hire the most libertarian freedom fetish Chief of Corporate Ethics they can find, because whatever they are doing now is ridiculously ineffective. After everything that has happened, there should be no more surprises yet it seems ever other month we find out Facebook is allowing the wrong people access to the wrong data and they claim they didn’t realize it was happening.

    I still feel like there is some kind of hatred out there for Facebook I can’t quite put my finger on, I mean MDN makes them sound like Nazi Brown Shirts or Antifa or something, but I keep thinking they are just inept. They have so much potential.

    They could elevate the world’s discussions above the Neanderthal level if they wanted. What if they created a special of section that was open to all of the climate scientists of the world and said this is for the exchange of research and solutions, but not politics. Verified scientists with credentials could participate and add content, while everyone else was free to read.

    Anyone could apply for such research areas to be created for any kind of problem.

    I hate to see Facebook broken up for such incompetence.

    Amazon, it’s funny. Amazon knows more about me than anyone else on the planet. I connect to Amazon and dog toys appear across the top of the screen, tech products through the middle, tech books and coffee through the bottom. If I could marry Amazon, I would.

    Apple’s hypocrisy, their walled ghetto, their bully pulpit are all things that sadden me. I still love the company, but it’s like seeing a best friend who suddenly becomes powerful and wealthy and forgets where they came from and who they used to be. They’ve demonstrated that they will shut down voices they don’t approve up and that makes others follow. That is a terrifying amount of power for a company that seeks to control every aspect of a customer’s communications.

    At some point, Microsoft has somehow become the least offensive tech company out there. They seem to be concentrating purely on building better products and creating powerful services. Remember when our favorite fruit company was like that?

  4. What if Apple did say, ok, you can purchase software from other companies? Just let people make the decision for themselves. Make it clear that iOS is safer than Android in no small part due to their control of software, and that if you go to other services, they cannot guarantee you the same level of security.

    1. and that would be FINE. Apple could even advertise that this JUST LIKE THE MAC PLATFORM. except of course that inept Cookie and the Dough Boyz don’t actually advertise the Mac.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.