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Google’s AG Onslaught A Big Fizzle For Tech

DATE POSTED:September 13, 2019

In many cases, unity is a good thing. Banding together for a common cause, perhaps a charitable one, or rooting all together for a home sports team — there’s strength in numbers.

For Big Tech, Monday offered a show of unity likely less than desired.

As you no doubt know, 50 attorneys general this week announced an antitrust investigation into Alphabet and Google’s operations. The probe will look at all manner of products and services, spanning YouTube, AdMob, the Chrome browser and no doubt more. And in the documentation looking for such insights, the AGs have also asked for a “business justification” for the login offering that lets users sign into third-party sites using Google credentials, which allows the firm to track what users are doing across several types of devices.

The antitrust launch had the optics of dozens of AGs gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court, and offered soundbites of how various AGs are wary of the search giant’s various business tactics. Though the announcement garnered a lot of press, it’s far from the only salvo in the increasing regulatory scrutiny of Big Tech; in another recent announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading an investigation into Facebook.

A few comments stand out for hinting at just how far-reaching all of this may be — for Google, and in a read across, for Facebook and others. The initial focus may be on Google and web ads, but as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said, the queries will follow wherever facts lead — and that suggests an open-ended road. The AGs are on the scene, yes, and so too are the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, and hearings keep getting scheduled by the House Judiciary Committee and the antitrust subcommittee.

In the case of the latter, leaders of the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee have sent letters as of today (Friday, Sept. 13) to Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to get documents that might shed light on market dominance.

“Today’s document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our Members need to make this determination,” Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who chairs the subcommittee and is leading the antitrust investigation, said in a statement.

The regulators, it seems, are closing ranks — indicating a fizzle for Google and its peers.

Sizzle

Apple market cap: Who says there are no second acts in life? The debut of the latest iPhone iteration, new Apple Watch and new iPads, helps push the company’s market cap past the $1 trillion mark — for the second time.

Same-day delivery “ramps” up: To get ever faster in the delivery game, Amazon is leasing space in a multi-story warehouse in Seattle that is the first where trucks can access multiple floors via ramps. The Home Depot is reportedly leasing space in the same building.

Digital banking: Multiple digital banking licenses are to be granted in Singapore, and Hong Kong amid concerted government efforts, showing traction for the online banking model.

Fizzle

Libra: Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency project applies for a payments license in Switzerland, and Swiss regulators immediately signal that more regulation is in the offing — and France says that it will look to block development of Libra in Europe.

MyPayrollHR: A quick and largely unexplained shuttering of the firm has ripple effects as business customers are left in limbo and deposited payments are suddenly withdrawn from clients — leading to accusations of fraud and employees losing money.

WeWork IPO: SoftBank reportedly asks the firm to delay its IPO plans as the valuations being considered, should the firm press ahead, dwindle down to less than $20 billion.