It’s hard to imagine a world without Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple. Rewind twenty-five-years to the not so distant past and this was the case. However, since bursting onto the scene, we’ve been wooed by the unassuming, plain-t-shirt-donning, garage to tech giant outfits headed up by the Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. They are the people we aspire to be, and we use their stories of success to inspire the next generation.
The effects of their relentless expansion now infiltrate more aspects of our lives than we would care to admit. With financial backing greater than some small countries and an ever-louder say on the way we live our lives, disrupting the big tech monopoly is critical; to let it continue at this rate with unfettered access to the laws that govern us would be egregious at very best.
They have all but eradicated competition, protecting their growing monopoly and with it, the standards for products and services are declining. Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple now all exert worrying levels of control over society, the economy and democracy.
Elizabeth Warren, a hopeful Democratic candidate for the 2020 US presidency, wants to restore competition in the tech industry. By designating large tech companies with an annual revenue of more than $25 billion as ‘Platform Utilities’ to limit how they share personal information with third party companies, and appointing regulators to reverse anti-competitive tech mergers, such as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, she plans to make this possible. She estimates that nearly half of all American e-commerce goes through Amazon, while more than 70% of all internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google and Facebook.
By imposing these two measures, she anticipates increased competition in the tech industry which is what consumers need. Because of their current monopoly, companies like Facebook have received little pressure to improve privacy standards which is something I’m sure we can all agree is detrimental to the end user. It is a direct result of this complacency as a society that allows for a Cambridge Analytica type scandal to occur in the first place.
She appropriately made this rallying cry in Long Island City, the proposed and hotly-contested home of a new Amazon campus. During her speech, she acknowledged the dark arts utilised by tech giants to suffocate competition and limit innovation. Venture capitalists are growing increasingly reluctant to invest in start-ups due to fear of them being bought out or forcibly driven out of business by larger competitors.
It should come as no surprise that people are drawing comparisons between big tobacco of the past and big tech of the present, and how the former eventually fell foul of antitrust lawsuits. Whereas we, a creative marketing agency, are subject to compliance of strict laws surrounding GDPR, tech giants like Amazon and Google openly flout similar laws with apparent impunity and even inform laws to work in their favour.
On a purely superficial basis, Facebook is just a tool that enables us to keep in contact with old school friends, right? Wrong. With over one-billion members, Facebook is a highly useful database that can be manipulated for less-savoury means due to the wealth of personal information it has collected about us. The ‘10 year challenge’, a seemingly harmless social media trend, was circulating between Facebook users, and while many saw it as innocuous, it has been suggested its intent is far more sinister. By coaxing millions of users to document how their face has changed over the course of ten years, Facebook is now in possession of data that could in theory train facial recognition software to recognise the signs of ageing.
After feeble attempts to hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable in 2018, the House of Lords is also calling on tech firms to be held responsible for privacy and data breaches, as well as the monitoring of anti-social content published on their platforms. They want to establish a digital authority that’s capable of keeping pace with technology.
Whether it is the governing bodies of America or the UK, those in power seem to be acknowledging the imminent danger that unregulated tech firms pose. As we become more dependent on technology, the need to regulate and disrupt the big tech monopoly to reignite competition becomes more requisite.
Tweet us @otbtweeter to let us know what damage you think a tech giant monopoly would bring. What could be done to prevent Google and co strengthening their grip on the tech industry? Is there anything to be wary of when imposing more stringent controls on tech firms? We’d love to hear your thoughts!