The Problem with Big Tech companies and what we can do about it
Table of Contents
Who are the Big tech companies and why are they important
Big tech companies are among the companies that you are most in contact with during your life. To be exact, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. 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 have created more and more services, and here lies the problem.
Facebook 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.
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 are able to 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 major Big Tech companies.
I invite you to check the most recent acquisitions of Facebook to get a better idea of the reach of these companies.
The Problem 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 how I put free in quotation marks, it’s because these services come with a price heavier than you think. So far we haven’t talked about what all of these companies are interested in. It’s Data! As in billions of users’ data. The big Tech companies take the data of their users and sell it to advertisers or use it to understand their users better. 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, every year a new apology.
Check out this list of all privacy scandals Facebook has been involved in.
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 for instance, 87.7% of computers globally use windows! Mind-boggling right? Do the math 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 a lot services, like office and emailing solutions. The point I am making is that these companies have made it their goal to penetrate every market followed by every niche and to drive competition out.
It all comes down to one big disadvantage for you!
So what’s the big fuss if they do? Well for starters, if they drive the competition out of their markets that creates a monopoly. Which basically, let’s them charge whatever they want for their services once their competitors are gone. Today office 365 costs 300$, in a monopoly that price could sky-rocket and you would still buy it because there is no alternative! Having a competitive market favors the end user, as you will get a lot more options at more affordable prices. But changing tech supplier 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 little 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 favor smaller companies that provide the product you need, you contribute to maintain 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 their approach. If big tech become the norm then your life as a consumer will become a whole lot more difficult.
There are more shenanigans to cover
All of 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 do on your desktop, they call this telemetry, Cortana their AI assistant monitors everything you say through the mic. If the option is on of course, 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 on a product. Then they bombard your email with stuff you could potentially buy. At first glance, it all seems nice cause they will understand you better and they will be able to offer a better experience. However, isn’t it spooky that the moment you talk about Fitness, you get sponsored ads about a protein shake? 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.
Apple the company that created the smoothest and most desirable ecosystem of products and services, is guilty of different kind of 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 was going to imitate Apple’s top of mind approach. Thus, Apple deployed its army of lawyers and launched a class-action lawsuit against the startup. It’s stuff like this, that gives me trust issues…
What you can 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.
Sick and tired of Gmail scanning your emails? Choose a private and secure email provider like Mailfence. Having a private email provider is becoming increasingly important nowadays with all the privacy scandals that appear. Not convinced? Have a look at our blog post that talks about the reasons why you need a private email.
Finally, un-check 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 2 minute to get some of your privacy back.
How to disable Google tracking
Time needed: 2 minutes.
Disable Email Tracking for Gmail
- Log in to your Gmail Account
- Click on your Profile Portrait
- On your left, select Data & Personalization
- Select Activity controls
Disable each one, for you all of them will be on by default
Click also the inclusion buttons
The ultimate tip however is to educate yourself and become aware. Check out this great email privacy and security course. Mass data collection is happening and is going to be the norm unless you act on it. Keep tabs on these companies, learn how their privacy policies evolve, and potentially, Degooglify, De-Apple, DeMicrosoft, and Deamazon. Support smaller players that have made it their mission to protect your data and stay safe!!