Senator opposes breaking up big tech, says Chinese firms will fill the void

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After Wednesday's antitrust hearing examining Apple and other tech companies, one U.S. senator says he's hesitant to break up big tech companies in favor of China-based alternatives.

On Wednesday, Apple's Tim Cook and the chief executives of Amazon, Facebook and Google testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. During the hearing, they all defended their companies against accusations of anticompetitive behavior and political bias.

Sen. Mark Warner, vice chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and a former telecom executive, told CNBC Thursday that he's not in the "break-'em'-up category — yet."

"These are all global companies. Frankly, to have them replaced by Alibaba or Baidu or Tencent - Chinese companies may not be the better alternative," Warner said.

The senator didn't take breaking up the companies off the table completely, saying that "what I would rather start with, keeping break-up as a reserve option, is, what can we do to add more competition? I think there are a series of pro-competition rules of the road that I would much rather use first before I immediately default to the break-up camp."

On the hearing itself, Sen. Warner noted that "some of the CEOs' testimony was a little bit self serving." Apple wasn't the primary focus of the grilling Wednesday, but Tim Cook did speak about various App Store policies and controversies.

Apple's practices also seemed to dodge Warner's other comments on Thursday, since the senator floated the idea of increasing transparency and flexibility surrounding how large companies handle data.

"I think we ought to have more transparency. I think you ought to be able to know what your data is worth on an either monthly or quarterly basis, so we get rid of this misnomer that somehow these services are free," Warner said. "They take your data, they monetize it - there's nothing wrong with that, but we ought to at least know as consumers how much that data is worth."

Apple, for its part, collects relatively little user data compared to companies like Google or Facebook, and takes steps to anonymize or secure the information it does gather.

 

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