The European Commission opened an investigation today into how Big Tech is using voice assistants and other consumer products and services linked to the Internet of Things in anticompetitive ways.
“Voice assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, [and] Amazon’s Alexa … allow us to control our smart devices without us having to look at a screen, … but we’ll only see the full benefits—low prices, wide choice, innovative products[,] and services—if the markets for these devices stay open and competitive,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a prepared statement. “One of the key issues here is data. Voice assistants and smart devices can collect a vast amount of data about our habits. And there’s a risk that big companies could misuse the data collected through such devices, to cement their position in the market against the challenges of competition. They might even use their knowledge of how we access other services to enter the market for those services and take it over.”
The investigation isn’t limited to voice assistants: The EC is looking at any consumer-related products and services that are connected to a network and can be controlled at a distance. This includes mobile devices, smart home appliances, smart TVs, smart speakers, smart lighting systems, and wearable devices too.
And while it’s easy to view this investigation as yet another attempt by the EU to rein in Big Tech, which mostly originates in the U.S., Vestager singled out Deutsche Telekom’s Magenta voice assistant as well.
“With a combination of competition enforcement and targeted regulation, we can help to build a better market for the exciting new products and services that the Internet of Things will make possible,” she added. “We can make sure that companies of all sizes have the benefit of a level playing field, where any business with a great idea and competitive culture has a real chance to succeed on its own merits.”