What is a Technology Monopoly?
Facebook, Telus, Google, Rogers, Microsoft, Amazon - you have heard their names and you might even use them on a day to day basis. Raking in billions of consumer dollars each year, these tech giants have dominated the global market. These companies have wiped out any competition in order to maintain their monopolies on power.
Take Amazon, for instance: their predatory pricing and strong-arm tactics have been able to take down independent sellers, and between 2007 and 2017 the number of small retailers fell by 65,000
. Or Facebook, which has acquired over 94 companies
, the most notable being Instagram, Whatsapp Messenger, Oculus Virtual Reality, Giphy, and more. These are just a few examples of how these companies consolidate power and monopolize the industry.
Why This is Probably a Bad Thing
Arguably almost certainly a bad thing, a major issue with technology monopolies is the accumulation of users' data. Have you ever read the privacy policies under the terms and conditions of a website, or do you just click the “I agree” button right away? Do you associate website cookies with anything more than virtual baked goods? I doubt it, and you are not alone. Due to a lack of competition, consumers most often do not have the option to care about where or which of their information goes to these companies. Technology monopolies get to set the bar in what they do with our data instead of the individual deciding. This accumulation of data in a centralized domain makes it more enticing for hackers to breach these companies’ security measures.
Especially regarding media companies like social media or news outlets, these large corporations can push their personal agendas and biases on the public. The lack of variety in major media sources can result in a reduction of different perspectives and a narrowed personal point of view. Censorship
can also aid in manipulating what the public gets to see (or does not get to see) and can obstruct religious, political, social, and other viewpoints.
Does This Really Affect Us?
Well, who cares if Amazon knows I impulse buy dog sweaters, or if Youtube took down that content creator who talks about global warming? Just last week the Rogers shutdown affected over 12 million customers and although Rogers was restored for some later that day, the result was disastrous. Online banking/ATMs were disrupted, paying by debit was down nation-wide, and 25% of Canada’s internet connection was lost
. This means that even calls to 9-1-1 were unable to go through. Luckily for us it was a network system failure, but if this is what a mere maintenance mistake looks like, imagine what a cyber attack on one of these companies could do. The implications of tech monopolies have real life consequences, and the actions of these corporations have a direct effect on each of us as individuals, as well as our global community.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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