Big Technology Won't Keep Your Data Safe
The 2018 World Economic Forum wrapped up in Davos, Switzerland this past month. For 3 days, political leaders, business tycoons, social entrepreneurs, celebrities, and others from around the world joined for its 48th annual meeting to Create a Shared Future in a Fractured World.
Technology was a prominent topic of discussion this year. In particular, the most powerful tech giants in the world, Facebook and Google, came under fire from billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Soros stated that these companies “have grown into ever more powerful monopolies, they have become obstacles to innovation, and they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware.”
Most of us use these companies every day: to communicate , to shop, to track what we eat and how we sleep, and much more. Meanwhile, we’re oblivious to the information that they are taking from us to improve their advertising and keep us using their platforms.
According to Soros, “Facebook and Google effectively control over half of all internet advertising revenue...The business model of social media companies is based on advertising. Their true customers are the advertisers [rather than users of their products and services]. They exploit the data they control."
Google and Facebook became colossal titans by gathering the data that their users willingly but unknowingly provide. When you share your data with these companies through your social profiles, spending habits, photos, etc. you are just helping them better sell you to advertisers.
The lack of regulation for Google, Facebook and other large technology companies, when considering the amount of personal information and influence they have with our digital lives, is shocking.
“They have algorithms we don’t understand” says Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian. What is shown to us online is determined by these algorithms, which are completely private to anyone outside the inner circle of the companies. “As more and more of our lives become digital, these new algorithms will assume more and more power over our lives.”
And this isn’t even to mention the significant threat to democracy and security these companies create. According to Soros, “There is an even more alarming prospect on the horizon.”
He warns, “There could be an alliance between authoritarian states and these large, data-rich IT monopolies that would bring together nascent systems of corporate surveillance.” These are companies after all, who profit from having more people using and providing them with their personal data.
So, where does this leave the average American? We can’t all simply go off the grid - social media and other big tech is too essential to our day-to-day lives. What we can do, however, is demand accountability from these tech giants. And, we can protect our privacy by using services that place a premium on privacy and don’t profit from our continued usage.