Big Tech: The Good, The Bad, and The Antitrust Argument
When a high school student needs to find information related to a project, they often use Google for a quick search. Working professionals usually want to purchase their new smartphones or laptops from a cutting-edge, high-end brand, so they turn to a company like Apple. When your siblings need to buy new sets of headphones, they order them with one click on Amazon. Many of us choose to spend a large quantity of our time on social media, so we scroll through our Facebook feeds. These four companies, the founding pillars of Big Tech, have a huge influence on our daily lives and completely redefine the way we function. Each of the Big Four has made an incredible, positive impact on society through innovative technology.
Scott Galloway insists that the Big Four have tapped into our basic instincts — needs for reassurance (Google), consumption (Amazon), love (Facebook), and success (Apple) — to market their products. These companies could be considered extremely dominant in their industries, almost monopolies but not quite; Google and Facebook now control 60% of mobile ad revenue, Apple controls 45% of the smartphone market, and Amazon controls 47% of all United States e-commerce. U.S. regulation has no problem with these monopolistic fractions of control, at least not until these companies don’t abuse their market power. From their humble beginnings, these once-scrappy startups reached the giants’ playground by steadily acquiring competitors, cloning products, and achieving rapid growth due to their immediate adaptation. The Big Four’s acquisitions of virtual reality, smart device, artificial intelligence, voice search, and machine learning companies have allowed us to gain insight regarding the direction of the tech industry.
Google contains the accessible archives of most information available in all of human history, leads the charge in developing new technologies like autonomous cars, and provides services like Gmail or Google Drive. Facebook allows us to connect with the world, Apple provides us with the best technological devices, and Amazon Web Services runs much of the internet, supporting services like Netflix and Instagram. Despite these seemingly distinct ventures, Google and Amazon compete over cloud computing and smart speakers; Amazon and Apple have qualms over retail space; and Google and Facebook overlap in terms of online ads. These companies are hardly restricted to their original identities anymore, and their ever-increasing ambition to develop new products or services has led to some blurry competition between these monopolies. Usually, competition provides industries with some vital regulation, push towards innovation, and challenge to accelerate development. However, even this slight nudging between the Big Four has done nothing to hold them back from proceeding with no true competitors — the giants just buy out what they fear or desire.
This incredible lack of regulation and concerns about privacy have led to a huge awakening regarding the future of large tech companies. The EU has stricter antitrust regulations and has heavily fined companies like Google in efforts to protect data and prevent dominance. Consumers have concerns about the lack of effective regulations, which ultimately encourages a lack of transparency, and they are also worried about the potential misuse of data or data breaches. Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for Big Tech to be completely broken up in order to preserve a healthy entrepreneurial playing field, a drastic move that would essential reverse mergers and acquisitions like Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods or Facebook’s deals with Whatsapp. Much of the backlash on this campaign revolves around the immense negative impact such a venture would have on our economy and the difficulty of going through with it. Another concern is the possibility of Big Tech simply becoming Big again, despite these efforts.
It has become evident that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple have had a remarkable impact on humanity by giving us access to a treasure trove of information, encouraging us to connect with others, and allowing us to acquire whatever physical objects or digital objectives we desire with a couple of taps or clicks. However, for all the good these companies have done for us, their dominating nature provides the opportunity to completely control innumerable aspects of our lives with no consequences for their actions – something that should also be considered. Antitrust legislation is a very hot topic today, and there is no cut-and-dried solution for ensuring the safety of all citizens while also giving companies the breathing room they need. By pursuing ventures that aim to solve major problems facing society, hiring employees from underserved communities, eliminating toxic cultures, and providing innovative technology that helps people, Big Tech is doing plenty for us. Still, by encouraging transparency, utilizing data wisely, and promoting trust between businesses and consumers, they can do even better.