martes, 21 de agosto de 2018

Digital consumer benefit and the long term

Last July, the biggest fine ever in a competition case was imposed to Google for illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google's search engine. Basically, the European Commission accused Google of illegaly tying its search engine to the distribtion of the Android system, which it´s licensed free for mobile devices on the condition (among others) of including the Google query box. As the search engine is Google´s flagship product and Android is used in 80% of EU mobile devices, the EU Commission understands that Google is taking advantange of its dominat postion in the mobile market to cement its overwhelming 90% market share in the market of search services.

However, the more painful part of the sentence for Google was not the monetary fine, but the accompanied remedies. Google was called by the EU Commission to stop its illegal practices within 90 days. Cuiriously, this measure has not raisen any relevant comments from Samsung, Huawei, HTC or any other handset maker supposedly abused by Google.

The inmediate reaction by Google was a post highlighting that Android has created flexibility choice and opportunity. Particularly, the company underline that consumers have been the main beneficiaries of the existence of Google. And this have been the main value of Android development strategy since its inception in 2007, its role in decreasing the prices for smartphones, which in its cheaper version can be found now for 50$ compared with the price of the cheaper in 2007 which was 500$ or more. 

The consumer benefit is usually the main line of defence and resistance of many other digital players. Take the case of the so-called sharing economy services. There are also strong callings to avoid its regulation, although some of them have evolved in genuine transport companies according with the ECJ (like Uber) and other are now the biggest lodging company in the world (like Airbnb). The main reason given by those who opposed its regulation is again the consumer benefit. 

However, they are overlooked many other consequences of the consumer benefit approach. In the Android-Google case, it is not needed to highlight the absolute knowledge that Google is accumulated of our wherabout, thoughts and customes. In the case of Airbnb and Uber, in the same manner that Facebook algorithms have been used to presumably corrupt electoral processes, it is not difficult to imagine how Airbnb  algorithms could be used to favour the prices of flats in a certain area or Uber algorithms to provoke a urban chaos through a massive petition of services in a district.

But should be consumer benefit the main goal of regulatory sentences or legislative actions? Remembering Matrix or Brave New World give us a reason to act against this line of thought. 

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