There has been considerable action from governments across the globe to introduce regulations, restrictions and even fines for big tech companies in recent weeks. The goal? To limit the power that big tech has. But are the measures that are being taken addressing the problems that have contributed to the growing power companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have in the world? For example, the type of power that had a whole nation in Australia up in arms about Facebook effectively shutting off their access to the news?
The open internet was originally conceived as a borderless environment that allowed information to flow freely across the world bringing people, communities and countries together, at the click of a button. Some of the recent measures taken by governments threaten to diminish access to information and services that was once the driving force behind the internet’s origins.
The regulations, restrictions and fines handed down to the big tech companies have done little to address the core issues of data, privacy and power. While the governments focus on reducing the power that big tech has, they have neglected to represent those that put them into power in the first place; the people. Little has been done to improve the power and control that the people have over their own data and privacy, and the lack of coordination between governments to address these issues mean that the biggest losers in all of this will again be the people.
The power and control that big tech has is not limited to financial gains. The algorithms and AI tools that are in place profile and place online users into predefined groups that serve the purpose of the companies that drive digital advertising. This is a purely a numbers game designed to reach the maximum amount of people, irrespective of their personal choices, with no option for people to identify for themselves. Do you even know how you might be racially profiled by ‘the internet’ for example? We are then marketed to, based on those predefined profiles.
The pain that record fines and heavy restrictions will have on big tech will inevitably be passed on to people. Maybe not through direct financial levies but through having to pay for services and information, that is currently freely available. Would you be happy to pay a monthly subscription to use Google for example?
The free internet as we know it, will change forever unless we find a solution that allows people to decide for themselves what they want to share and what they want to keep private. The revenue generated from digital advertising is widely acknowledged to be the fund that keeps the internet free to everyone, not just those that can afford it. Rather than restricting, governments should be enabling individuals to take back control of their data and their online experience.