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Multistate probe of Big Tech is long overdue

The Google Inc. logo is displayed on an

The Google Inc. logo is displayed on an Apple Inc. laptop computer in Little Falls, New Jersey on July 20, 2019. Credit: Bloomberg/Gabby Jones

If you type the word "antitrust" into Google, you'll find that the top results reveal bad news for what is likely the search engine of your choice.

A bipartisan antitrust probe has been launched by almost all state attorneys general into Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and its “potential monopolistic behavior.”

This massive legal firepower comes after news of similar investigations this summer by the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and Congress highlighted  the growing concern that Big Tech — specifically Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon — has impeded competition and hurt consumers. Data privacy is a key issue.

The multistate antitrust probe is long overdue. The companies have created conveniences like same-day free deliveries and ways to connect with people around the world, but also have crushed smaller competitors. As consumers became more dependent on these services, they also became more vulnerable to incidents that have compromised private information, financial security and trust.

The European Union issued  hefty fines and imposed stricter regulations on the tech giants as early as 2014.  The United States, meanwhile, has straggled, slapping relatively inconsequential fines on companies that have been reckless with our data to increase their profits.

But that era seems to be over. The FTC fined Facebook a record $5 billion in July for mishandling users’ personal information. 

More oversight is needed, but it must be smart. Regulators should be wary of taking initiatives that could harm smaller players who often do not have the same resources and capital to abide by new restrictions. That would only ensure that Big Tech gets bigger. — The editorial board