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Google and Apple’s AI Partnership Raises Regulatory Concerns

Why a Partnership Between These Companies Should Worry Antitrust Regulators

May 01, 2024


  • The rumored partnership has all the same monopoly characteristics as Apple’s Google search deal.
  • A deal would be a significant blow to consumer privacy.
  • As regulators examine both companies under a microscope, they continue to flout the rules and don’t appear to be afraid of the consequences. Their singular focus is to straighten their monopolies.

They just don’t learn, do they? Rumors of a potential partnership between Apple and Alphabet on using Google’s Gemini generative AI in iPhones should worry us all.

Google is already on trial for federal antitrust violations for its two-decade-long dominance of internet search. A key piece of evidence presented before the judge in that trial is that Google pays $18 billion a year to be Apple’s default search engine. The two companies have long colluded to eliminate competition while boosting their bottom lines. Google and Apple's arrangement is also under investigation in the EU.

Yet, both companies may double down on the same behavior that landed Google in the courtroom last year. This should raise eyebrows at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) since it's clear that neither company is overly concerned about violating antitrust laws. Further, Google and Apple are already under investigation for potential bad-faith “compliance” with the European Union’s (EU) Digital Markets Act.

While cooperation between the tech giants on AI could take a variety of forms, and the details are not yet public, the two companies’ dismissive attitude toward US and EU regulators, and the combined 800 million people they represent, suggests a real risk that such cooperation would be anti-competitive.

The FTC has already announced investigations over the concentration of AI development within a small group of powerful corporations. These agreements could pose significant risks to consumer rights, data privacy, and the ethical development of Al technologies.

Sacha Haworth with the Tech Oversight Project said it best in an interview with Axios’ Ina Fried:

Apple is openly colluding with Google in an effort to block out competition and protect monopoly power for itself and closest 'rival.'

Let’s take a closer look at this potential partnership between Google and Apple and its implications:

  • Currently, there are 2.2 billion active Apple devices; with access to billions of users, Google’s Gemini would gain a significant advantage over competitors like Microsoft and OpenAI.

  • According to Bloomberg, “the generative AI features under discussion would theoretically be baked into Siri and other apps. New AI capabilities based on Apple’s homegrown models, meanwhile, would still be woven into the operating system.” Apple is under fire for self-preferencing its own apps and technology on iPhones. The ongoing FTC lawsuit proves that this sort of activity makes it nearly impossible for other companies to compete on a level playing field with Apple.

  • Apple has explored whether to operate its own search engine or partner with Microsoft's search engine, Bing — but it continues to stick with its lucrative deal with Google.

  • Apple prides itself on ostensibly protecting customers' privacy, going as far as airing ads touting itself as a champion of protecting customer data. No such commitment exists at Google. If, like search, Apple chooses a partnership over developing its own privacy-focused AI models, consumers lose.

As regulators examine both companies, they continue to flout the rules and don’t appear to be afraid of the consequences. Their singular focus is to straighten their monopolies. If fines aren’t enough, we think it's time to break up Big Tech.