The US Justice Department is preparing to look into Google and Apple and the Federal Trade Commission will start to look at Facebook and Amazon, covering everything from data security to anti-competitive practices and market power.
Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has announced an allocation for at least a US$3 billion fine. It has also stopped working directly with data brokers like Acxiom and Epsilon, which offered turnkey lists of consumers segmented by interests for easy ad targeting. Since then, Facebook has started to develop a history clearance tool that will prevent advertisers from tracking consumers from a brand’s website to its social network.
The ad platform business of Google is also a focus of current investigations. Google’s ad platform weirdly allows it to represent both buyers and sellers in the same online auctions, and publishers are concerned about Google’s position as gatekeeper to ads that run on all their sites. Google’s monopoly in search, e-mail, Chrome, Google ads, and even video-based search on YouTube, is also a cause for concern.
At this point, attempts at privacy protection only hindered competition, allowing Facebook and Google all the data connections to consumers, with publishers and marketers stuck on the outside looking in.
There are also red flags about how Facebook has integrated all its powerful social media and messaging apps, so that ads can run seamlessly across all of its properties. When Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, they said they would never integrate the back end or share data. Now why are we not surprised that they’ve just done exactly that, by merging WhatsApp with Facebook Messenger and Instagram messaging?