Google’s “God’s eye view” of their market

This Economist article makes a point that has gone through my head. Google is the number one search engine (duh!) Anyone who was thinking about starting a company that might compete with Google’s businesses (say, a self-driving car) would, doubtless, use Google for their research. Could Google monitor the searches run on its engine and keep an eye out for potential competitors with the intent of buying them or aggressively shutting them down if they get too big? Well, of course they could; the question is: are they?

The specific concern for Google would be a competitor figuring out a very specific technological advantage that could allow them to disrupt a market.

Normally I’m not one for paranoia but this seems quite likely and not really even illegal.

The Economist spells it out thusly.

The giants’ surveillance systems span the entire economy: Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy. They own app stores and operating systems, and rent out computing power to startups. They have a “God’s eye view” of activities in their own markets and beyond. They can see when a new product or service gains traction, allowing them to copy it or simply buy the upstart before it becomes too great a threat. Many think Facebook’s $22bn purchase in 2014 of WhatsApp, a messaging app with fewer than 60 employees, falls into this category of “shoot-out acquisitions” that eliminate potential rivals. By providing barriers to entry and early-warning systems, data can stifle competition.

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