Technology

Advocacy groups urge Congress to tackle tech giants’ auto industry focus

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A coalition of tech advocacy groups is warning members of Congress and federal antitrust enforcers against the potential dangers posed by tech giants expanding into the automobile industry. 

“Make no mistake: the expansion of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook into the auto sector spells trouble for workers and consumers,” the groups wrote in a letter sent Tuesday, according to a copy shared exclusively with The Hill. 

The letter was sent by nearly 30 groups, including the American Economic Liberties Project and Demand Progress, to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan and the Justice Department’s antitrust head Jonathan Kanter. 

It details concerns about tech giants’ growth in the automobile industry as the auto sector transitions to focus on electric and autonomous vehicles. 

For example, Google’s self-driving car project, now known as Waymo, is being tested in some parts of the country.  

In 2020, Amazon acquired the autonomous vehicle company Zoox and last year expanded into tests throughout Seattle. Apple has also confirmed that it is working on an “Apple Car” product, though few details have been released by the company. 

The advocacy groups said the tech industry’s growth into the auto sector could damage the protections American auto workers have traditionally had from unions.

“As automation expands, these jobs are at risk and Big Tech cannot be trusted to lead that transition,” they wrote. 

The groups also raised concerns about data and privacy security if tech companies could “monetize our behavior behind-the-wheel.” 

“They know where we go, what we search for, and now they’ll know how often we use our turn signals or go five miles over the limit,” they wrote. 

“We encourage you to keep these concerns in mind as you examine Big Tech’s monopolistic activities, plan a path forward on legislation reining in Big Tech, and use your oversight powers and platform moving forward,” the letter continues. “Specifically, we hope that you raise these with the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice before they approve any future mergers or acquisitions and encourage them to pursue vigorous antitrust enforcement.”

The letter builds on antitrust momentum in Washington. The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have embarked in lawsuits and investigations into the industry giants, and both the FTC and Justice Department’s antitrust division are now headed by critics of tech giants who have advocated for a revamp of antitrust laws. 

Klobuchar and Cicilline have both led proposals aimed at revamping laws to address the market power of dominant tech firms. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill aimed at blocking tech platforms from giving preferential treatment to their own products. It’s a companion bill to one the House Judiciary Committee advanced last year.

Tags Amazonan Amy Klobuchar antitrust Apple David Cicilline Facebook Google Lina Khan self driving cars Waymo

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