Today, Fight for the Future launches a historic campaign to fight back against Big Tech’s creeping monopolization of the auto industry. The Dangerous Road Ahead campaign will educate consumers about the threat Big Tech’s effort to dominate the auto industry poses to privacy rights and economic competition.
The “Big Four” tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google) have built monopolies by exploiting users’ sensitive data. As they eye further expansion, it should come of no surprise that they plan to leverage data on how you drive, where you drive, and who you drive with to entrench their power.
1. From software to self-driving cars, Google’s auto industry encroachment will further entrench their surveillance-based business model
Currently under antitrust scrutiny, Google Maps has become ubiquitous in newer vehicles as a built-in feature of the Android Auto service. Google has also put significant resources into developing its Waymo self-driving car service, which has become a $30 billion independent venture with on-the-road operations. As we explain in the “Big Tech Takes Over” resource, Google’s infotainment and self-driving car projects will extend the company’s watch over our every move, with frightening consequences for our privacy and civil liberties:
“…Google’s enormous stockpile of location data was used to identify political protestors, and police regularly obtain “geofence warrants” that can unmask anyone who’s traveled through a given area. Tools like these could be used, for instance, to exploit Google data to identify people who have visited abortion clinics or attended political meetings.”
2. Apple’s surveillance monopoly stands to gain from the rise of CarPlay and the future release of an “Apple Car”
Available in 98% of new cars, Apple CarPlay is increasingly a mainstay in the auto industry, and has been leveraged to entrench the popularity of Apple Maps. Since 2014, Apple has invested in a self-driving car project codenamed “Project Titan” (often referred to as the “Apple Car”), and has negotiated with car companies like Hyundai and Nissan on future assembly projects. As the campaign explains, CarPlay is already a powerful surveillance tool and stands to become even more invasive in the future:
“When you use it, CarPlay gives Apple access to a trove of data on how and where you drive, information about who you call and text when you’re in the car, and even potentially recordings of your personal conversations. The next generation of CarPlay will be even more tightly integrated with your car’s core systems, and Apple’s contracts with automakers require information about your driving to be shared with your iPhone—and with Apple itself.”
3. Amazon and Facebook also have their eyes set on the auto sector as an area for dominance
From its purchase of autotaxi company Zoox in 2020 to its partnerships with industry staple Stellantis and electric vehicle (EV) maker Rivian, it’s clear that Amazon wants to dramatically increase its influence in the auto industry.
As the campaign notes, Amazon’s auto ambitions stand to further entrench the e-commerce giant’s monopoly status: It’s entirely within the realm of plausibility that access to Zoox rides could be a feature of the Amazon Prime service in the future.
While Facebook has made fewer moves towards the auto industry than the other members of the “Big Four”, the campaign notes that:
“…Facebook has historically provided powerful customer experience services to auto dealers, understanding the power it has to reach and activate consumers, and there is every reason to expect more auto investments in the future.”
4. How regulators—and you—can fight back against Big Tech’s drive to dominate the auto space
The Dangerous Road Ahead campaign recognizes the unique role played by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in safeguarding consumers from harm. In August 2022, we petitioned the FTC to take action against the tech giants’ encroachment into the sector under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
As the campaign lays out in “The Need For Regulation” resource, the FTC’s statutory authority to rein in monopolistic abuses through Section 5 has since been strengthened further:
“Section 5 of the FTC Act gives the FTC broad power to ban “unfair methods of competition, and to enforce against violations. In November 2022, the FTC issued a policy change expanding its definition of “unfair methods of competition,” committing the agency to aggressively police monopolistic behavior and to update its procedures to keep up with changes in the market, including the changes brought on by Big Tech corporate consolidation.”
It’s not too late to stop Big Tech from monopolizing the auto industry, but without a strong regulatory response and pressure from consumers across the country, it likely will be. With this in mind, the campaign urges consumers to take action through recommendations made on the “What You Can Do” guide.
This includes making their voices heard to the FTC, the Senate Commerce Committee (which has jurisdiction over the FTC), and the Senate Judiciary Committee (which has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Committee). The campaign also urges those concerned by Big Tech’s efforts to monopolize the auto industry to sign Fight for the Future’s petition, as made available in the guide.