A coalition of 13 privacy-focused tech companies, including the likes of Mozilla, DuckDuckGo, and Brave, this week sent a letter voicing their support for the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA). The letter (which you can read in full here) focuses on Big Tech’s invasive data-collection business.
“Incessant data collection and tech monopolies are inherently linked: the more data they collect and use to influence user decision making, the stronger their grip on the industry becomes, leaving users feeling like they have no option but to accept a lack of privacy to use the Internet,” the coalition writes in the introduction of its letter.
None of the signees are big, exactly — they don’t make enough money to be affected themselves by the AICOA — but many are well-respected in the tech industry. And the fact that they’re not part of the Big Tech crew is the point, really. These are companies that get the short stick when Big Tech monopolizes anything and everything in sight.
A quick AICOA primer — The American Innovation and Choice Online Act is one of a handful of Big Tech antitrust bills that have been floating around the federal legal system this year. The AICOA was first introduced in the House of Representatives in June 2021; companion legislation was introduced in the Senate last October. The Senate was expected to vote on the bill’s passing before its August recess, but, uh, that never happened. TBD on when that vote will actually happen.
The AIOCA is unique in that it focuses on “self-preferencing” in Big Tech. This would make it illegal for Amazon to promote its Amazon Basics line in search results, for example. Companies would need to have a market cap of at least $550 billion to be affected by the bill, so small or mid-sized tech companies need not worry.
The bill would also block Big Tech companies from using non-public data (read: data collected from users) to the advantage of their own products. Google’s search engine empire would need to be much more careful in the data it used to influence business decisions, for example.
Nudging the needle — Big Tech stands to lose a whole lot with the passing of the AICOA. There’s nothing quite like building a business on principles of self-preferencing and then being told that self-preferencing is illegal. As you might expect, companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are lobbying hard against the bill’s passing.
The path to passing the AICOA is made a bit smoother by influential endorsements like this privacy-focused coalition’s letter. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice overtly voiced its own support for the bill. Next up: the ever-contentious Senate vote.