The financial records of Big Four tech companies Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple have come under severe scrutiny in an ongoing antitrust probe.
In separate letters dated September 13 and sent to the tech giants' executives, a US House panel has requested to submit their internal correspondence, financial records, and other documents. Alphabet's Larry Page, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and Apple's Tim Cook are given until October 14 to return the request.
The request is part of an ongoing competition investigation in the digital marketplace. In its previous announcement, the House antitrust committee said the investigation is geared towards diagnosing competition problems and if these "dominant firms" engage in anti-competitive behaviors.
"This information is key in helping determine whether anticompetitive behavior is occurring, whether our antitrust enforcement agencies should investigate specific issues and whether or not our antitrust laws need improvement to better promote competition in the digital markets," Rep. Doug Collins, a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
The internal communications specified in the request are those between senior executives on major acquisitions. These include Google's acquisition of YouTube, DoubleClick, AdMob, and Android; Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods, Zappos, Eero, AbeBooks, and PillPack; Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, Onavo, and WhatsApp.
The committee is also seeking information on Apple's policy about setting non-Apple apps as defaults; Google's policy about automatically signing Chrome users in any Google device they use; Facebook's integration of WhatsApp and Onavo with Facebook Messenger and its decision to remove other apps from its network of services.
Chairman of the antitrust subcommittee Rep. David Cicilline expects the participation of the executives to make sure the internet is "an engine for opportunity for everyone, not just a select few gatekeepers."
This is not the first time these tech companies are facing regulators.
Apple is recently facing a $14.4 billion tax fine imposed by the European Commission for allegedly avoiding taxes for more than 20 years.
Google has been penalized by the same regulator multiple times for antitrust cases. The European Commission has imposed a total of $9.5 billion in fines since 2017.
Last July, the European Commission announced that it's investigating Amazon to determine whether its use of merchant data breaks competition rules.
Facebook also caught the attention of the European Commission for sharing the data of millions of users with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. It's also facing an investigation from the regulator for its newly announced cryptocurrency, Libra.