Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Big Tech: Involved in "every aspect of your life"

Apple's headquarters (Noah Berger/Reuters)

From today's NY Times:

...“Much as people are now wary or even unhappy with the outsized power held by Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc., they are simultaneously quite dependent on the services they provide,” said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Big Tech needs to be regulated, many are beginning to argue, and yet there are worries about giving that power to the government.

“The government doesn’t have a good clue,” said Mr. Bajarin, the consultant. “They’re not even asking the kind of questions that would drive to regulation.”

Which leaves regulation up to the companies themselves, always a dubious proposition.

“For Facebook to have a better year in 2019, it needs to be more upfront and transparent,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer. This was also the advice Facebook got for 2018, to little avail.

All this could change if the anti-tech mood continues to swell or the economy hits a really rough patch. On the other hand, the last recession tended to work in Big Tech’s favor by giving smaller competitors even more to worry about.

During the 2008 financial crisis, Amazon’s North American media sales increased 20 percent. Borders, one of its biggest book-selling competitors, saw revenue drop 9 percent, reported a record loss and was soon defunct.

With so little to really worry about, Big Tech is planning for a future far beyond any present-day turmoil. Google, which has 3,500 job openings, says it is too early to say what the thousands of employees will do. But Jonathan Taplin, director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, has a good idea: everything.

“They’re in the transportation business, the medical business, every business,” said Mr. Taplin, a frequent critic of how Big Tech took over a decentralized, independent internet. “There is no aspect of your life that they will not be involved in”...


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