The Big Five control and influence more than any other business. Is it time to cut them down to size?
Big Tech has changed the world by spurring technological progress. However, some government leaders don’t have a positive view of these companies and want to break them up.
But if Big Tech is pushing the world forwards, why are governments so keen to curtail the power of these enormous tech outfits?
What Is Big Tech?
Big Tech collectively describes the most prolific and prosperous technology companies in today’s marketplace. Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon (often referred to as the Big Five) are the brands most commonly given this identifier, but some sources include others, such as Twitter, Samsung, and Netflix. In addition, Chinese companies such as Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu are also referred to as big tech firms. However, they are positioned as competitors to the Big Five rather than included within the same umbrella.
Big Tech’s Beginnings
Big Tech companies didn’t always have such a massive influence on society. When Facebook launched in 2004, only Harvard University students could use it, followed by expanding to other universities and high schools. It took until 2006 for the company to open usage to people without educational institution-related emails.
At Apple’s founding in 1976, leaders sought to make computers a mass-market product. It was one of the world’s best-known brands by the 1980s. However, in 1996, the company lost $867 million and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Products such as the iPod, iPad, and iPhone helped Apple regain traction beyond the PC market.
When Google launched in 1998, its founders worked from a garage. Even in those early days, though, the leaders took unconventional approaches, including when the whole staff took time off from work to go to the Burning Man festival. Employees also followed a “Don’t be evil” value at the company (which was quickly dropped, for one reason or another).
Amazon got its start solely as an online book retailer in 1994. A year later, Jeff Bezos needed desks for his small staff. He realized that doors cost less than desks and had workers use those instead.
These examples show the lack of early, immediate indicators of Big Tech’s success. However, things have changed, and these companies now affect sectors other than technology. The already large and growing influence makes some government leaders cautious.
Big Tech Companies Use Data for Profit
Big Tech companies often provide free resources. For example, there’s no subscription fee required to do a Google search or have a Facebook profile. However, large tech companies gather customer information and use it to profit. For example, Facebook collects information about users’ race, religion, and political views. It can then sell that information to advertisers.
People often want to know what Big Tech does to prevent issues with data collection and advertising. Unfortunately, evidence shows it often falls short in policing the ads shown on the respective platforms or lacks appropriate controls. For example, Facebook advertisers could target people interested in.
Evidence also emerged ofto influence elections in the United States. More recently, ads nurtured people’s interest in COVID-19 “cures” and helped the anti-vaccine movement flourish.
These reasons and others cause people in power to point out that Big Tech regularly mishandles people’s data. Even if those companies do not experience breaches, the applications for user information by third parties raise eyebrows and strengthen the arguments to lessen the power such businesses have.
On the other hand, data collection generally enables more personalized services. If someone searches for all-natural house cleaning products on Google, they’ll usually see ads related to those items, which could assist people with their purchases. Similarly, Google and Apple collect information about how customers use their smart assistant services to increase future accuracy.
Big Tech Limits the Market Access of Smaller Companies
Another argument against Big Tech is that such companies make it harder for smaller entities to enter and compete in the marketplace. Big businesses shape how people use the internet and the avenues they go through to get what they need.
In 2020, thefiled a complaint against Google for its alleged exclusionary agreements that prevent other search engines from gaining marketplace traction. Officials discussed how to extend its monopolies in the search engine and advertising industries.
More recently, European Union regulators. They took issue with its anticompetitive App Store practices, saying they affected music streaming companies and app creators. Developers must use the company’s in-app payment system and not inform customers of other options.
Small-business advocacy groups also call on governments to restrict Amazon, complaining that the e-commerce giant’s resources help it dominate less-established entities. It particularly took issue with Amazon’s in-house brands and how products sold under them are often cheaper than competitors offer, drastically undercutting the market.
Big Tech can also help smaller companies, however. For example, the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store give lesser-known developers a larger platform, making it easier for customers to find their products. Also, Amazon’s Marketplace opens opportunities for small companies to sell items on Amazon and. As a result, products often reach customers faster than they otherwise would.