If you have been following the news lately, its clear that big tech companies are more than beginning to lose their luster. Everywhere you look, one can find news of a major company being embattled by one scandal or some sort of turbulence.
Amazon, for example, saw $30 Billion shaved off its market capitalization because of President Trump’s wondering aloud as to whether or not Amazon would be hit with antitrust or competition law. Trump wrote the following on Twitter:
Besides Amazon, Facebook has quite obviously been hit in all directions due to the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. The revelation that Cambridge Analytica harvested the user data of millions of people, data that in turn may have influenced the election, has sent ripple effects throughout the entire tech industry. In short, the event could very much prove to be a watershed moment, as it could force enormous changes as to how many tech companies, not just Facebook, operate.
A prime candidate for this disruption is Google, whose stock has also taken a hit lately, as the firm could have to change how it sells user data to advertisers. The issue could extend itself to Amazon, a firm that could potentially have just as much user data as any other company.
In short, big tech companies are facing unprecedented challenges that could potentially disrupt how they do business. Companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Amazon all account for over $3 Trillion of market capitalization and are all candidates to see some of their respective business units crippled by potential legislation.
Though seeing these companies’ business models get partially undermined by legislation or antitrust law would be a spectacle, it would create ramifications that ripple across the entire digital landscape. Here are the potential good, bad, and ugly outcomes:
A clearly positive outcome of potential legislation is a resolution to the privacy concerns of many. If legislation is done correctly, one could hope for users to have greater control over whether and how a company uses one’s personal data. No longer will huge tech giants be able to harvest our personal data, only to leverage it in a way that allows other companies to make money off of us.
And additional positive outcome is that our personal data will be less available for those interested in influencing elections. A huge concern stemming from the Cambridge Analytica fiasco is that the data mined from that firm could have undermined the integrity of our political processes.
If any sort of legislation were to be passed, one could hope that securing the integrity of our elections would be one of the benefits.
If legislation were to pass that changes the way big tech uses data, it would also carry some pretty negative consequences.
One obvious negative is that such action by the government could hinder technological innovation going forward. So many applications are built on top of platforms provided by Facebook, Google, and Amazon. If companies had to severely alter they way they provide data through API’s, it could hinder entreprenuers ability to come out with innovative new products.
This problem compounds itself when one considers that innovation today is actually stagnating in the world of physical products. Technologies around transportation, healthcare, etc. are actually innovating at a much lesser pace than they were many years ago. Peter Thiel describes this phenomenon here:
Though regulations limiting use on user data could be very necessary in today’s world, one must also understand that it could limit innovation in a space that proves to be one of the increasingly few sectors that are still innovative.
As a budding entrepreneur, its easy for me to see how decreased innovation is a bad thing. However, the worst outcome that could possibly happen is that people in the government pass laws that make everything terrible. Its very clear that people in our government don’t have a sufficient knowledge of technology. Need proof? Look no further than Congress’s many awkward interactions with Mark Zuckerberg:
Its clear after seeing how Congress handled Zuckerberg’s testimony that if they were to pass anything we could all be in trouble. I can clearly see how our representatives could pass legislation that not only makes innovation tougher to achieve, but does not properly accomplish what it was meant to do in the first place: protect the online privacy of Americans.
What do you guys think? Is big tech in trouble or will the giants of industry prevail? Will any action taken by Congress produce positive changes or will new legislation prove to be one step forward but two steps back?