Find out what consumers and tech workers are saying about the growing power of Big Tech.
Does Big Tech Have Too Much Power? If you ask the general public, the answer will be a resounding yes.
A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 75% of Americans worry about the energy they use with big technology. Another survey confirmed these findings, with 64% of consumers feeling that tech companies have too much power, while 55% think the government should impose more regulations.
Things don’t get any rosier when you ask employees at tech companies about their own company.
More than three-quarters of tech workers think Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google have too much power, while only 8% disagree, according to a recent survey. Likewise, the same survey found that 40% of senior tech workers feel that tech does more harm than good.
And this is coming from the industry!
So, what is giving people this near-universal feeling that big tech has so much power and should reign over it?
Big Tech is huge.
All the big tech companies, from Amazon to Google, have blossomed in size and scope thanks to massive mergers and acquisitions. Big tech companies use M&A to increase their market power and leverage, gain new information to generate revenue, and limit competition.
The American Economic Freedom Project charts historical M&A (mergers and acquisitions) for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google to understand the scope and scale of these activities.
For example, over the past 25 years, Amazon has made 118 acquisitions, including Whole Foods, Ring, Twitch and Box Office Mojo.
Apple has made 126 acquisitions in the past 34 years, while Facebook has made 92 acquisitions in 17 years, including giants like WhatsApp and Instagram.
Finally, there’s Google, the king of tech M&A, with 264 acquisitions over 21 years, or 13 deals a year.
All this has made consumers feel that big tech has grown too big.
One survey found that 80 percent of American consumers say mergers and acquisitions unfairly weaken competition and consumer choice. In addition, 30% like to divide technology platforms into smaller ones to adjust the consolidation.
Unfair trade practices
All of this sheer size and power gives big tech companies the ability to limit competition and use market conditions to their advantage.
Nearly a quarter of US consumers say it’s unfair for big tech companies to give their own products more favorable treatment than competing products in search results. Additionally, 52% say it is only fair if the preferred allocation is clearly defined.
Another thing that consumers aren’t crazy about, and you can count me on that list, is something called dynamic pricing, and I’m sure you’ve seen this on Amazon. Basically, Amazon is looking at what zip code you live in, how much you have and what you’re willing to pay for certain products, to adjust their prices accordingly.
Not surprisingly, 75% of US consumers see variable pricing models as a problem.
Big Tech and the police
In the year In 2019, the Washington Post reported that Ring, the doorbell camera company now owned by Amazon, secretly shared users’ personal data and video with 400 police forces. Oh, and this article was written by the Washington Post, owned by Amazon, which is owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos. No conflict of interest there.
According to WAPO, the rapid growth of the program, which began in the spring of 2018, has surprised and worried some civil rights advocates.
Andrew Guthrie-Ferguson, a law professor and author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing,” says Andrew Guthrie-Ferguson, said that the perception of “a need for greater self-regulation and playing on consumer concerns about crime and security.” Ring thinks he’s “found a clever solution to developing a whole new surveillance network without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it were coming from the police or the government.”
Ring has tried for months to keep key details of its police-partnership program secret, but public records released from agencies nationwide have revealed some details of the company’s shady cooperation with local police.
And if you ask employees at big tech companies like Amazon after the police responded to BLM protests, 44% will tell you they don’t want big tech working with law enforcement.
In fact, after the BLM, many tech giants, including IBM, Amazon and Microsoft, have announced that they are cutting or ending their relationships with police departments, mostly for selling and deploying facial recognition technology.
What is the solution?
While most large tech workers think their companies have a lot of power, they don’t really align with what the next steps or regulations should be.
Three-quarters of tech workers say big tech companies should be allowed to buy other firms, while 40% of big tech workers think Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet and Apple should break up.
The public generally feels more strongly about regulation. 60% of US consumers favor stronger government action, such as new laws, regulations and enforcement to both punish big tech companies and reduce the amount of harmful content.
I remember a hundred years ago there were certain laws on the books about monopolistic companies and certain laws about competition and market dominance. Now is the time for the government to enforce the guidelines from the Sherman Antitrust Act and other established antitrust laws to curb monopolization and promote competition and fair play in the technology market.