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Left-leaning app makers Spotify, Tile and Match Group (home to the popular dating app Tinder) are going toe to toe with Big Tech.
Representatives from the three companies testified Wednesday at a Senate subcommittee hearing about the alleged monopolistic behavior of Apple and Google.
Music streaming service Spotify — which promoted its Black Lives Matter playlist last June and promised to match $11 million in financial donations to racial injustice organizations — turned on its fellow liberal tech company Apple early in the proceedings.
Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s head of global affairs and chief legal officer, represented the music streaming service in the subcommittee hearing.
Gutierrez’s testimony packed a punch, as the Spotify executive warned that Apple is “abusing its complete power” to the detriment of its partners and consumers.
He made the argument that Apple exploits the fact that app makers rely on the tech enterprise for mobile distribution.
In addition, Gutierrez asserted that Apple has made efforts to silence Spotify from speaking out about the tech giant’s suspected anti-competitive practices.
He said there were “at least four clear examples of threats and retaliation” from Apple, including threatening to remove Spotify from the App Store in 2013, unnecessarily delaying approval of minor app updates and withholding promotion in the App Store.
“They’ve basically thrown the book at us in a number of ways to make it hard for us to continue to sustain our decision to speak up,” Guiterrez said.
The company’s chief legal officer, Jared Sine, shared at the hearing, “We’re all afraid.”
Sine detailed how Google operated under the false pretenses of an open platform before adding a payment system to its Play Store, which launches in September. He testified that Google told Match Group that the Play Store would be free before it introduced a paid version of the platform.
According to Market Watch, Sine also alleged that Google called Match the night before his testimony was made public to demand an explanation. Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said that call was “potentially actionable.”
The Match Group legal officer said that “Apple has been equally authoritarian with its monopoly power.”
Sine recalled an instance when Apple blocked a Tinder partnership with T-Mobile by banning T-Mobile’s version of the app from the App Store. Apple had argued that the communications company’s link to Tinder violated platform rules.
“Senators, this is not curation, it is iron-fisted, monopoly control,” he said.
Kirsten Daru, general counsel for the Bluetooth tracking app Tile — another company that voiced support for Black Lives Matter — said she was just as concerned about Apple’s death grip on smaller companies’ ability to perform.
“We have to give Apple unprecedented control over our business,” Daru argued, going on to suggest Apple may be using app maker data obtained through the App Store to develop competitive software.
She said this seems to be the case for Tile, which reached out to Apple for approval of Bluetooth capabilities — a proposition Apple rejected before subsequently building AirTags with that functionality.
Such testimony makes a compelling case that the dominion of the Big Tech tyrants extends beyond stifling competition into the realm of software plagiarism.
Here’s hoping these insider accounts will help in the campaign to break up Big Tech monopolies.
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