Countering Big Tech

2020 has been a dramatic year. And 2021 is turning out to be no less dramatic. I am not even referring to the China originated COVID-19 virus.

Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon have established an iron grip over a lot of aspects of our daily lives. There is an interesting Wiki page on Big Tech (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Tech). User privacy violations are only the tip of iceberg. We have much bigger challenges to deal with.

We used to pay for the post card, and still not worried about privacy. These days we want everything free but demand highest level of privacy!

Privacy aside, there are massive challenges with Big Tech. Think about these few examples.

  • Paytm is India’s major digital payments company and its current valuation is over $15 billion. This is a massive success story in India’s financial sector. In September 2020, Google pulled Paytm App out of its Android App Store due to some policy (Google’s policies) violations. Google has its own Paytm competing product in India, Google Pay. Fact is – Google executives can put a $15 billion company out of business, just like that. We can do nothing about it.
  • Apple and Google control the App Stores on their respective platforms. Not only do they provide the tech backbone of these App Stores, they also control which Apps can stay and which Apps will be thrown out. 3rd party App Stores are either restricted or not allowed at all on their platforms. In the 1990’s, we used to call them “walled gardens”. One of the drivers for internet based applications since 2000’s was to break away from these walled gardens. Irony is, we are back to walled gardens that are now controlled by these few tech biggies.
  • Software infrastructure providers like Amazon and Microsoft are not far behind. They are the world leaders in cloud tech – a virtual set of software components that many businesses across the world rely on. Parler being blocked by AWS is a classic example. Yes, you may be right in opposing Parler. But how comfortable are you in allowing few executives to put a full stop on your business because those execs do not agree with what you are doing. It is Parler now. It can be you tomorrow. What protects you? Nothing.
  • Censoring on social media is another complex thing that is difficult to fathom. I have seen so many accounts on Twitter that get temporarily or permanently blocked. Police officers, infrastructure enthusiasts, writers etc.. they just get blocked because Twitter thinks these influencers in our society do not comply with the rules framed by these execs. Again, you may rejoice when someone you dislike gets blocked. But soon you will find people you admire also getting blocked.

Make no mistake – Big Tech companies have a lot of things to consider and their job is not any easy. They are severely criticized when they do not act. And they are criticized when they do act. Running these platform, especially the ones where customer is not charged directly, is extremely difficult. Sniffing through millions of messages each day and identifying the offensive ones is extremely hard. You cannot even imagine the amount of computer processing such things require. It costs millions of dollars each year to maintain the platforms these Big Tech companies run. As a user, if you think these services are free, you are obviously mistaken.

Ask yourself – would you work for entire month and do not take any salary from your employer? You would not, right? Then why do we so naively expect the technology companies to give us all these services and do not expect anything back from us?

So, how do we ensure we use services from reliable partners and our businesses are not at the mercy of few execs sitting thousands of miles away? Ban these companies? Of course not. Banning does not solve any problem. It will only create new monopolies.

Take the below steps to break monopolies of Big Tech, without actually banning them.

  1. Pay for what you use – yes, find news sites that accept subscriptions. Make donations to companies that are small in size but are providing similar services as big tech. Remember, nothing comes for free. If it is free, then you are the product. Paying upfront at least ensures these small companies can find a foothold and eventually we break the big monopolies. I make donations to Signal App, Wikipedia. Buy subscriptions from various news outlets like https://www.livelaw.in/, https://www.thenewsminute.com/ and Manorama publications. Nothing is free. Pay for the services you use.
  2. Do not build your business completely on mobile apps. This is a mistake. Create good websites and offer all your services through a mobile browser. You never know when Google or Apple will find your business not compatible with theirs and block your apps on some pretext. Apps are good, but make them only one part of your reach to customers. I do not build mobile apps, but have stopped using Apps wherever possible. Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and many other services are accessed from my phone mobile browser.
  3. If you are active on social media, start expressing yourself in services outside of Facebook/Insta/WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter. Use alternate communication tools like Signal and Telegram. If you are an influencer, it is even more important you do this as your followers will also start to adopt the new services.
  4. Start using alternative service for Internet search. Try https://duckduckgo.com/ or other options.

Breaking the Big Tech greed and monopoly is easy. It just takes little effort from all of us. And to understand that the freebies these companies offer are actually leading us into a trap.

Hope you found this article interesting and worth your time. Please do share your comments below or tweet me @ VijayIvaturi. Yes, “Tweet me”. I tried Tooter and Koo for few weeks and found both to be not good. Hopefully, we will see more options soon πŸ™‚

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