Vince Cable calls for action on villainous Google, Amazon, Facebook
Google, Amazon and Facebook should be broken up, says Vince Cable, who argues that a string of scandals, including the controversy around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, mean the tech giants have “progressed from heroes to villains very quickly”.
In a speech in London, the Liberal Democrat leader said: “Just as Standard Oil once cornered 85% of the refined oil market, today Google drives 89% of internet searches, 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook product, Amazon accounts for 75% of ebook sales, while Google and Apple combined provide 99% of mobile operating systems…Whatever these companies do, they are not price gouging – since their headline price is always zero. It is the forces underlying this apparently free bounty that politicians must address.”
He added: “The new internet giants operate in a largely borderless world where their main source of profit is intangible intellectual property rather than measurable ‘things’. This is difficult to track and quantify and has turned national tax authorities into largely powerless bystanders.”
There was a case, Cable argued, for splitting Amazon into three separate businesses – one offering cloud computing, one acting as a general retailer and one offering a third-party marketplace. He also raised the idea of the public being paid for handing over their data.
“The new oil is data. Data is the raw material which drives these firms and it is control of data which gives them an advantage over competitors,” he said. “By putting data in people’s hands and empowering them to choose who to sell it to, personal data would no longer be monopolised by the tech giants, and innovative insurgents could buy the data they needed instead of letting themselves be bought up to access the giants’ data pools.”