Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and other voice-activated assistants are on the hot seat as one of the world’s largest regulatory bodies takes aim at the Internet of Things (IoT).
The European Commission (EC) said Thursday (July 16) it has launched a “sector inquiry” into the Internet of Things, citing concerns that a few big tech giants could use data collected by voice assistants to box out competitors and build up monopoly power over the emerging field.
Nor is it just Siri and Alexa on the hotseat, with the EU, in a press release announcing the inquiry, also citing Google Assistant and Magenta, Deutsche Telekom's friendly voice-activated assistant.
“Voice assistants and smart devices can collect a vast amount of data about our habits,” Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president at the EC, said in the press statement. “And there’s a risk that big companies could misuse the data collected through such devices, to cement their position in the market against the challenges of competition. They might even use their knowledge of how we access other services to enter the market for those services and take it over.”
In a first step, the EC said it will be sending out questionnaires to 400 companies, not just in Europe, but across Asia and the Americas as well, about how companies collect data and how they make money from the data they collect.
The inquiries are being targeted at companies that sell “smart home appliances, wearables and voice assistants,” as well as businesses that offer services that are accesses through these smart devices.
The aim is to both help the commission “spot situations where companies may have broken the competition rules” as well as add to level of knowledge among EU regulators about the emerging sector, Vestager said.
The number of smart home devices in Europe is expected to hit 184 million in 2023, up from 108 million at the end of 2019, the commission noted.