What Should We Reasonably Expect From Platforms? seemed like a good topic for this week’s PPCChat discussion as yesterday, one of Google’s antitrust trials started & Apple’s big event too. Here is the screencap of the entire session which was hosted by Julie F Bacchini.

Q1: Do you think Google engages in anti-competitive behaviours? If so, what type? If not, why not?

I think this is a really interesting question to ponder. And I am really interested in seeing how the court cases play out.I think you can make an argument that Google does engage in anti-competitive behaviours, but also I think the argument that they “favour their own results” is a silly one. Of course they do, it is their search engine and network? @NeptuneMoon

I’ve been asking myself this question the past few days and I’m finding it difficult to land on one side. Their deals with Apple do feel prohibitive  – I am VERY interested in that section of the testimony. At the same time, I have been using other browsers recently and IMO the experience is subpar, Google’s product really IS just better and I find myself back there. @BriannaHorvat

From the justice dept website “As alleged in the complaint, over the past 15 years, Google has engaged in a course of anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct that consisted of neutralizing or eliminating ad tech competitors through acquisitions; wielding its dominance across digital advertising markets to force more publishers and advertisers to use its products; and thwarting the ability to use competing products. In doing so, Google cemented its dominance in tools relied on by website publishers and online advertisers, as well as the digital advertising exchange that runs ad auctions.” I’d agree they’ve certainly been doing that and continue to do so. Especially with the release of ga4 and lack of features designed to get people to sign up for 360 or big query. @Josh M

I’m sure they do. When you get that big, you always want to move the goalposts. Beyond dark/grey patterns to pick X over Y. I imagine they push their own products when they think no one else is watching. @duanebrown

The buying up rivals part is interesting to me too, because that happens in other industries ALL THE TIME and no one bats an eye most of the time. @NeptuneMoon

I find a lot of the court cases a little bit tricky to make sense of, especially the ones which are US-based, but I think the general consensus is that they definitely do. Which whilst not excusable, is also understandable when you look at their position in the world. @marketingsoph

Also, The NY Times has a live stream of the trial going here:https://www.nytimes.com/live/2023/09/12/business/google-antitrust-trial @NeptuneMoon

Just this morning I used Safari to play around with the experience some more and overall found it difficult to use and it felt limited. I ended up back on Chrome without even realizing it! lol The difference in experience on mobile is even more stark. Again, IMO. @BriannaHorvat

Anti-competitive in the sense of being legally, monopolistic? No. There hasn’t been any issue with price adjusting to consumers. @KurtHenninger

@KurtHenninger  It is interesting that we are talking about products that are for the most part free to use for individuals or businesses. @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon Correct and I think that is the legal “rub” here.  Extremely hard to legally prove harm to consumers when your consumer “product” is free. @KurtHenninger

I would argue that it’s a product that is edging toward being a utility vs. a product. Especially if the barrier to entry is so so high. @BriannaHorvat

I think the biggest issue is not the anti-competition piece (like it would be with Meta) – the biggest issue is how our lives are so entwined with Google and how it’s evolved. @navahf

These latest replies lead beautifully into my next question! @NeptuneMoon

Personally, as I read it, the GVT has a weak argument they are making in the courts.  Granted, the laws might need to be rewritten. @KurtHenninger

I’d rather dig into how search and content types impact human minds – but anti-trust is the less terrifying accusation. @navahf

I think it’s easy to claim Google is anti-competitive, but it’s obviously hard to prove. They provide a market-leading set of products. Competitors are free to exist, but it’s tough to compete with the top player in any space. @teabeeshell

Another big issue here is that they control both sides of an “auction”. They control who gets into the auction, how much they pay for said auction, and with very little insight from anyone outside Google @robert_brady

@robert_bradyThis is the basis of the other antitrust case Google is facing. @NeptuneMoon

Q2: Do you think that governments and regulatory bodies should do more to regulate “big tech”? Why or why not? And if so, what should they be doing?

Whilst I think they should, I don’t think that they work quick enough to keep up with tech changes. Especially here in the UK, government is so behind in so many aspects of modern life. By the time they’ve caught up, the landscape has changed again. @marketingsoph

IMO, the “government” doesn’t have the technical sophistication to write meaningful laws here.  At least in this specific case with Google. So, I’d rather then stay out of it. @KurtHenninger

I wish governments were capable of it but every time they try, they ask the wrong questions and end up adding to the fortress these companies build around themselves. I do not deny the good they do (all of our careers are based on these companies). However, there are absolutely moral lines blurred and it feels like consumers do a better job of regulating than legislative bodies. @navahf

I’ll leave the can of worms on whether legislative bodies can keep partisan politics out of valid big tech conversations to the side XD. @navahf

Agree that in theory, there should be some regulation happening. But the thought that it gets written by big tech lobbyists kind of defeats the purpose of meaningful regulation. The kind that actually a net positive for both the companies and the people who utilize them. @NeptuneMoon

In a world where these companies can leverage lobbyists, it really inhibits impactful regulation. @BriannaHorvat

For example, let’s say that they would be successful regulating “AI”.  They’d need to define “what” AI is, and then a year later AI would have evolved technically beyond that definition. @KurtHenninger

Given the above, I think they could at least regulate big tech to stop pushing automation on everything and at least maintain the manual levers. Automation is great when it works, but it often breaks and there needs to be failsafes advertisers can use. @Josh M

I think the biggest areas where we will see legislation and regulation will be around privacy and user data. It’s already been happening for a while and I see that aspect continuing to build on itself. Whether it will do so in a way that actually accomplishes the stated goals is a whole other question. @NeptuneMoon

I don’t think the government has the capabilities (knowledge) to comprehend tech like Google’s or Meta’s, much less regulate it. I suppose the one area that makes some sense is consumer privacy. That said, where do we draw the line. We use these apps/products mindlessly each day, and consciously to perform work. I struggle to see real-life examples of how privacy is violated in terms of freedom of thought. @teabeeshell

Q3: What obligation for privacy do you think platforms have to users? And what’s reasonable to expect them to do on that front?

I love these philosophical questions! @NeptuneMoon

I think that platforms should be more transparent with users about the data that is collected and how it is used. I think they are better about this now than they were even 3 years ago. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do better. @NeptuneMoon

Tough question here.  I don’t think most consumers really care about their privacy. @KurtHenninger

This is really interesting on the privacy and competitiveness front too:https://www.theverge.com/2023/9/6/23859570/european-union-commission-digital-markets-act-gatekeepers-apple-google-meta-microsoft @NeptuneMoon

I suppose consumers should know if their information is resold (i.e. recent Temu allegations). This feels reasonable and a chief deciding factor as to whether or not a person uses a product/service. Outside of that, if we want tech to be “free to use,” there is something of an understood obligation to forfeit “privacy” for these companies to make money via advertising (within the ecosystem), improve the product/service, and research usage trends. I think Big Privacy is a bit of a fear-mongering tactic.  Perhaps the biggest concern is identity or financial theft, but even with that, there are a number of safeguards to ultimately protect oneself. @teabeeshell

I’m not so sure about that @KurtHenninger – I think people were ignorant to a lot of things that were happening on platforms with regard to their data and they are paying more attention now. I saw this chart this morning about people’s comfort level with biometric information and Amazon where the vast majority are very uncomfortable with the concept: @NeptuneMoon

PPCChat answer of the question "What obligation for privacy do you think platforms have to users? "

@NeptuneMoon – Weren’t we all uncomfortable with facial scanning and thumbprints to open our phones when Apple released that tech years back? @teabeeshell

@teabeeshell I think people assume that their activity on a platform is being tracked and consider that an okay tradeoff for free use of the platform. What they don’t necessarily know about, and when they do find out object to, is being tracked off that platform by the platform, accessing contacts on mobile devices or photos or messages. All of those things, if platforms specifically asked “Hey, is it okay if we do this?” most people would emphatically say no! @NeptuneMoon

Good point @NeptuneMoon and I can see that for newer biometric data.  Older types of private data like name, email, phone, address, even SSN, I think a lot of people have it as a given that this info is just out there online. @KurtHenninger

@teabeeshell I still don’t use biometrics for Apple devices either. There are no legal protections in place for what can happen with that data. @NeptuneMoon

I know I’m kind of the party pooper, but I also warn people about using DNA services. They can sell that data. It is not covered under laws like HIPAA in the US. It’s data like any other sellable data. You think health and life insurance companies don’t want to get their hands on that data??? @NeptuneMoon

Lol…let’s not get started on HIPAA laws in the US.  We’ve seen those are very carelessly thrown out the window. @KurtHenninger

Q4: Which platform(s) do you think are the best and worst when it comes to competitive behaviour and/or privacy issues?

It’s kind of funny to me how Amazon almost never gets brought up in these kinds of conversation, despite their huge dominance in the online retail space and their regular copying of seller products. @NeptuneMoon

I think Meta is probably shadier on the privacy side than say Google or Microsoft. Part of that is the social aspect of the Meta platforms. But both Meta and Google scan your messages and emails for ad targeting – which is gross. @NeptuneMoon

I think they’re all equally as bad, and adopt the worst parts of what they see their competitors succeed on. Amazon might be slightly worse due to the product copying as you mentioned. @Josh M

TikTok gets a ton of heat for this, but it is at least in part because they don’t really try to hide what they are doing? @NeptuneMoon

My question in response: Apple is heralded as the best protector of consumer privacy while using its devices. But aren’t we still using the end products/services? Does Apple protect against personal info usage by Meta, Google, or others? If not, what “privacy gains” do consumer achieve through being an Apple loyalist? @teabeeshell

I think Apple just did that move to harm tracking, which initially hurt Facebook the most, but with the impending death of cookies, I think we’re going to see all ad platform tracking getting worse and move back to how things were before digital tracking became a thing. For better or worse. @Josh M

Any app you use on your iPhone (including Google, Facebook, etc.) does have to ask you if it can track you and you can say no and it is supposed to respect that answer. So, I would say Apple is doing more on that privacy front. That being said, they are sitting on Mt. Everest of customer data. They just are not using it via a huge ad platform… yet. @NeptuneMoon

Most egregious isn’t an ad platform per se, but rather US Federal GVT & data.  Family member had their complete identity stolen by a privacy data breach from there.  I know we are talking tech platforms though. @KurtHenninger

I swear I must get a letter every other month about some kind of data breach at some business we use – bank or insurance or something and we get free credit monitoring for a year, blah, blah, blah. It’s nuts. We need regulation about data security! @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon Yes to that!  Maybe bigger penalties for data breaches. @KurtHenninger

Meta is so frustrating – the lack of support makes it especially frustrating because given their partial monopoly, it’s necessary for some things but if you get hacked or have account issues, there’s no one to help you, and there’s no real way to appeal. @revaminkoff

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