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US: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple push back in big tech probe

 |  November 19, 2019

Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple defended their business practices in responses to detailed questions by lawmakers conducting an inquiry into antitrust issues in the tech sector, reported Reuters.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which released the answers on Tuesday (November 18), had sent the queries as part of its probe of the four giants, which face a long list of other antitrust probes. 

The companies, long a symbol of the most dynamic aspect of the US economy, have seen their reputations tarnished by privacy lapses and allegations they abused their perch on top of the market to hurt small and nascent rivals. 

In its responses, Google, which owns YouTube, repeatedly denied favoring its own services over those of competitors in areas such as search, video and internet browsers. 

According to Reuters, it said “the vast majority” of clicks following a Google search go to non-Google websites,that results from its YouTube offering are not given greater weight than video rivals’, and that its word processing and analytics tools are designed to work well with all browsers, not just its Chrome product. 

Despite its huge collection of data on search queries and clicks, Google stated it could not provide much of the data sought by the committee. For example, asked whether it could share how many searches display location information about a business, Google said, “We do not have a standard definition for what searches are considered ‘location searches’ and thus, cannot provide the specific information requested.” 

For its part, Facebook acknowledged cutting off certain third-party apps from its developer platform for replicating core functionalities, such as Twitter’s Vine, which it said replicated Facebook’s own News Feed product. 

Apple answered basic questions about its browser and the commissions it pays in its App Store, and many other things, most of which are generally known. For example, it said exactly two employees had sought to take disputes to arbitration. But asked how much it had spent on its map app that competes with Google, it said only “billions.” 

Amazon.com stated in its response that it uses aggregated data from merchants on its third-party marketplace for “business purposes,” but denied using the data to launch, source or price private-label products.