The Problem with Big Tech Companies and Why You Should Care
Big Tech, or Big Four, then Big Five, or even Tech Giants of GAFAM (stands for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft). You’ve more than probably heard of them before. But what are the concerns with Big Tech Companies? How are those companies providing good services for people actually using them for dreadful purposes?
Who are the Big Tech companies and why are they important
Big Tech companies are among the companies you are most in contact with during your life. To be exact, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. The Big Five have had a tremendous impact on our lives. Each and every one of us has used their services at least once. Some of us even use multiple, if not all, of these companies services. What’s more, these companies have expanded at a breathtaking speed and created more and more services, and here lies the problem.
Facebook (now Meta) manages among others: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Three of the most popular messaging services on the planet, coincidence? Not at all, Mr. Zuckerberg knew exactly what he was doing when he acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. His company bought its two main competitors and, in a way, killed the competition. Interoperability is necessary for a healthy market, which the gatekeepers try to destroy.
Moreover, Google has created loads of services such as Gmail, Google Adwords, Adsense, Google analytics, and the list goes on and on. Amazon has become the marketplace of everything, from pins to sophisticated devices to anything you can type in the search bar.
Point is, these conglomerates have become an integral part of our lives, whether you are a simple user or a business one. By offering “free services”, they can drive out and crush their competition. Whether they are start-ups, medium-sized businesses or even large enterprises. Nobody is safe from the competition of the Big Tech companies.
Feel free to check some recent acquisitions of Facebook to get a better idea of the reach of these companies.
The concerns with Big Tech
How do they remove their competitors from the market? They either manipulate the market by lowering prices up to 50% or by flat out offering services for “free”. Notice the quotation marks, as these services come with a price heavier than you think. If it’s not money from a subscription, then what is it? It’s data! As in billions of users’ data. Big Tech companies take their users’ data and sell it to advertisers or use it to better understand their users. Let’s not talk about the numerous privacy scandals Facebook has been involved in. At this point, Mr. Zuckerberg has apologized at least 10 times in the last decade.
Additionally, these colossal companies like to capture as much market share as possible. Think of Amazon: it sells anything you can imagine. Let’s take Microsoft: 87.7% of computers globally use Windows! Mind-boggling, right? Do the maths, and the number that comes up is just insane. Now Microsoft does not only develop the Windows OS, it sells its Surface laptops, it also creates software for many services, like office and email solutions. Point is, these companies have made it their goal to penetrate every market followed by every niche and drive competition out.
What does it mean to you
So what’s the big fuss if they do? Well, if they drive the competition out of their markets, that creates a monopoly, which basically lets them charge whatever they want for their services once their competitors are gone. In a monopoly, a price could skyrocket, and you would still buy it because there is no alternative! Having a competitive market favours the end user, as you will get a lot more options at more affordable prices. But changing tech suppliers is not so easy. That is because of something that is called vendor lock-in. A term that describes the techniques used by service providers to make it incredibly difficult for you to switch to another service.
Having tech behemoths running around wild, with no regard to rules, has consequences. It stifles new competition and crushes innovation by decreasing the entry of new companies in a market. So you will be forever bound to these giants for every service you need. Luckily, we are not yet at this point in most markets, but clearly we are reaching the point where the Big Five need to be stopped. Both EU and US leaders believe that Big Tech have grown out of control and that it may be too late at this point.
Believe it or not, but as a customer, you also have a lot of power. If you stop supporting monopolistic companies and actually favour smaller companies that provide the product you need, you contribute to maintaining a healthy competitive market. In addition, these alternative services serve your purpose without spying on you 24/7!
Say NO to conglomerates and support local businesses and services. If enough consumers don’t buy products from Big Tech, then these companies will be forced to change both their business model and approach. If Big Tech become the norm, your consumer life will become a lot more difficult.
Big Tech are listening to you
All the Big Tech companies spy on you. Google and Facebook are the most obvious, even though they try to hide it with continuous “transparent policies”. Microsoft tracks every move you make on your desktop, and they call this telemetry, Cortana, their AI assistant, monitors everything you say through the mic. If the option is on, of course, but in most cases, it is and has to be manually turned off.
Amazon gathers everything you do on their site, from purchasing patterns to clicks, to just simple views of a product. Then they bombard your email with stuff you could potentially buy. At first glance, it all seems nice because they will understand you better, and they will be able to offer a better experience. However, isn’t it spooky that you get sponsored ads about a protein shake the moment you talk about Fitness? Or better yet, gym-related products, like dumbbells? Imagine you talk about a more intimate subject, let’s say your dating profile or an illness. What would you get?
Apple, the company that created the smoothest and most desirable ecosystem of products and services, is guilty of different shenanigans. Although Apple is more transparent with its data collection, it engages in different scandals. Not so long ago, a small startup launched its business. It was called Prepear, and for its logo, it had exactly that: a pear. The ingenious Apple saw this as a move that Prepear would imitate Apple’s top-of-mind approach. Thus, Apple deployed its army of lawyers and launched a class-action lawsuit against the startup.
What can you do about it
As a consumer, you have a direct influence on these Big Tech companies, say no to endless gathering & processing of your data. Choose privacy-focused services that seek to protect your data instead of monetizing it. In addition, carefully read privacy policies. Yes, instead of skipping 10 pages of boring legal jargon, take some time and learn how they process your data. Ask questions! How is your data gathered? How is it processed? If they are using analytics, make sure they are using open-source software for it. There are other ways to protect your online privacy and protect your data.
Sick and tired of Gmail scanning your emails? Choose a private and secure email provider like Mailfence. With all the privacy scandals that appear, having a private email provider is becoming increasingly important nowadays.
Not convinced? Let’s have a look at the reasons why you need a private email.
Finally, uncheck options that collect your data and transfer them back to these companies. It’s not foul-proof, as these giants know how to get around it, but it will at least give you some peace of mind.
All it takes is a first step to get your online privacy back. Feel free to check how Mailfence meets your email privacy and security expectations.
Turn your back on Big Tech
The ultimate tip, however, to solve the concerns with Big Tech is to educate yourself and become aware. Mass data collection is happening and will be the norm unless you realize your personal data belongs to you, and that you can actually act on it.
Keep tabs on these Big Tech companies, learn how their privacy policies evolve, and potentially, Degoogle, De-Apple, DeMicrosoft, and Deamazon. Support smaller players that have made it their mission to protect your data and stay safe.
You can also learn to protect your privacy, starting with this great email privacy and security course.
And if you want to try to use privacy tools like end-to-end encryption, digital signatures, and two-factor authentication (2FA), you can subscribe to the free plan of our Mailfence suite right now!
It includes :
- a calendar with polls, contacts and groups management,
- a chat service,
- a document storage and management platform,
- and 500 MB of data storage.
All are secured and private, meaning you’ll enjoy complete privacy for all emails, documents, and records you’ll keep there. All you have to do is try it now !
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Patrick is the co-founder of Mailfence. He’s been a serial entrepreneur and startup investor since 1994 and launched several pioneering internet companies such as Allmansland, IP Netvertising or Express.be. He is a strong believer and advocate of encryption and privacy. You can follow @pdeschutter on Twitter and LinkedIn.