Is Big Tech Too Big?
In the past decade, the major tech companies of America have experienced unprecedented growth, amassing massive amounts of power that have begun to raise questions as to whether they have become too big. Earlier this year, the U.S. The Justice Department announced a major antitrust investigation into these tech giants, while the House Judiciary Committee began a specific antitrust probe into Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.
This sentiment amongst our elected officials is shared with the public, as nearly two-thirds of Americans have expressed support in breaking up tech firms. Research conducted by YouGov Blue shows that seven in 10 Americans say it’s a good idea to break up such companies if the content they show people is based on whether they’re making money. This is apparent among Amazon, who is known for stifling competition and promoting its own products instead.
Facebook boasts nearly 2.5 billion users and brought in $56 billion in revenue as one of the leading social media companies in the world. The company counts the likes of Instagram and WhatsApp amongst its holdings and often uses its immense resources to either buy out competitors or develop similar services under its own branding.
Even more so, Google has the power to gobble up competitors, as this tech giant has spread into the reaches of email, search engines, smartphones, and advertising. This is notable as Google counts among its dominance the power to feature its own ads prominently over competitors, giving the company a major advantage. It is also shown in how it requires smartphone makers to include the use of its own search engine and other products in order to utilize its Android operating system.
Perhaps the greatest threat to healthy competition in the marketplace is that of Amazon. It has far outgrown its humble beginnings as an online bookseller, with interests in everything from online retail to video and groceries. Amazon is notorious for identifying best selling products, developing its own replicas, then selling them on its website, and purposely driving traffic towards its products instead of competitors. It has also become a huge threat to traditional brick and mortar retailers, causing many small businesses to shut down due to the fact that there is no way to compete with its prices.
All the while, these big tech companies are constantly capturing and storing customers’ data, which can be argued is a major invasion of privacy. In the past year, Facebook has suffered through numerous major data breaches, consistently showing consumers that it is incompetent in protecting sensitive information. This is also echoed with the findings that smart speakers are listening and capturing voice data in the privacy of people’s homes, even when the microphones are not activated.
As these companies continue to grow, the amount of power they accumulate is unfathomable, and each modicum of power gained equates to a greater hold over our everyday lives. The products and services they offer have become synonymous with our way of life, but in the end, we must ask what the price of this is.