Startup Takes on Google

Wall Street Journal writer John D. McKinnon reported earlier this week that, “For every link you click, every photo you post, every word you search, somebody markets the data to advertisers seeking to target you. Consumer data is a valuable commodity, and that is one reason Google, Facebook and others let you use their platforms at no cost.

“An Australian app maker called Unlockd thinks it has a better idea: The consumer should get a cut of this mobile-data business, in the form of rewards or other incentives. Other newcomers and smaller firms are taking a similar tack. Should this approach take off, some see it becoming a viable alternative to the ad model driving big platforms like Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

“Unlockd says that is why Google has been trying to kill it.”

Mr. McKinnon noted that, “The startup, which has about 330,000 users world-wide, has sued Google in the U.K. with what amounts to an antitrust argument. It asserts that when Google threatened to remove Unlockd from the Google Play store starting late last year—a step that if taken would effectively kick the app off the Android platform—the tech giant was trying to leverage its market dominance to choke off Unlockd’s growth.

“On Wednesday, a U.K. judge granted Unlockd an interim injunction to prevent Google from removing the app from the Google Play store, at least for its U.K. business. The Australian company said it was ‘confident’ it will prevail at trial. Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.”

The Journal article explained that, “The case highlights a growing interest in how tech giants are managing—and extracting great wealth—from consumer data, a flashpoint last month when Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg gave testimony in Congress.”

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