Tam Pham Bang Le

ITS 380

Shin-Ping Tucker

November 1, 2019

CH8 Ethical, Social, and Political Issues in E-Commerce

Case Study – Are Big tech Firms Getting “Too Big”?

1.  How does the first era of antitrust thinking (1890-1950s) differ from the second era?

The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 through the 1950s says that small firms and entrepreneurs could enter markets, to define and prevent anti-competitive practices; to protect consumers and other firms from exorbitant prices, and in short, any behavior that resulted in a restraint of free trade. After the 1960s, the major constructs of classical antitrust thinking and legislation-predatory pricing, discriminatory pricing, and vertical integration-were no longer viewed as problematic, but rather seen as advancing consumer interests by lowering prices. This new thinking was directly opposite of earlier antitrust thinking and laws.

2.  What is a "natural monopoly" and how has the United States dealt with natural monopolies?

      Where the very nature of the product and market required very large initial capital investments with few rewards in the short term until a large scale was attained, dominant firms were considered natural monopolies. Electrical and gas utilities, telephone and cable systems, and railroads have very high initial investments that can only be justified by capturing a large share of a market. Often these firms are the first to develop a technology and achieve a first-mover advantage. Natural monopolies create barriers to entry into a market simply by virtue of the investment size required for new entrants, as well as other nearly insurmountable advantages in efficiency, brand, and patents. In these cases, legislatures have turned to regulation to control pricing and service levels in the public interest, in addition to structural changes.

3.  What are three possible solutions to the market dominance and anti-competitive behavior of Facebook, Google, and Amazon?

      A first solution is to increase the review of proposed mergers with a view to protecting innovative small firms from purchase if they result simply in the dominant firm gaining larger audiences, and capturing more of the consumers' time, denying this mindshare to competitors.

A second solution regarding existing monopolies would be to split them up into stand-alone independent companies.

A third solution follows the European example of dealing with Big Tech mega-firms. The EU is pursuing a regulatory model for Big Tech firms in a number of areas such as antitrust, privacy, and taxation.

4. How does the European model of antitrust differ from the American model?

      The European model of antitrust prevents abuse of power in its own way. The European model is similar to the earlier period of American antitrust legislation, that looked at the structure of market and competition, not just the consumers. European model focuses on anti-competitive behavior and use of big fines for violation of competitive laws and regulations.

Projects

1.      Develop a list of privacy protection features that should be present if a website is serious about protecting privacy. Then, visit at least four well-known websites and examine their privacy policies. Write a report that rates each of the websites on the criteria you have developed.

-         Protection of payment information

-         Protection of customer confidential information

-         Limit the access of other companies to the customer information

-         Do not sell private information to others 

Google: 7 point out of 10: it is a safe place, but it shares personal information to private companies that will have access/knowledge of your characteristics

Facebook: 5 point out of 10: same case than Google, plus they permit other companies to have access to your personal information such as your profile, message, friends, etc.

Amazon: 8 point out of 10: Secure and private. Their only issue is that they control your behavior too much to offer you more products.  

NY Times: 8 point out of 10: you can navigate and read articles without need of registration. However, they use cookies and it is complicated to determine how much information about you they storage.

2.      Go to Google and find the Advanced Search link. Examine its SafeSearch filtering options. Surf the Web in search of content that could be considered objectionable for children using each of the options. What are the pros and cons of such restrictions? Are there terms that could be considered inappropriate to the filtering software but be approved by parents? Name five questionable terms. Prepare a brief presentation to report on your experiences and to explain the positive and negative aspects of such filtering software.

From my understanding, after reading up on how Google SafeSearch works, it doesn’t seem to block any specific words or terms but rather most of the adult content that would show up. For example, if someone types “sex” into the SafeSearch, it will most likely block the photos and articles with “explicit content”. This brings up a great point, though; what if what someone is looking for is not technically “explicit” but the engine blocks it anyway? This is where the SafeSearch is not entirely accurate and may block content you feel is appropriate and leave content visible that you may feel is inappropriate. The latter sums up the pros and cons of Google’s Advanced SafeSearch well. That being said, I cannot really name five questionable terms because it is not the term that is blocked but the content that shows as a result of the term..