Many of America’s big-name technology companies, including Google, Facebook, and Apple, have been increasingly targeted by antitrust officials over in Europe. Unlike in America, where these giants have not really had to deal too much with legislation regarding privacy policies or how users’ online data is used, Europe seems to be taking a different stance. Those agreeing with Europe’s stance claim that these investigations need to proceed in order to limit the rate at which a small number of corporations can control a very large share of the world market. Those on the other side disagree with this argument, and claim this is Europe’s attempt at promoting it’s own technology companies which happen to be located domestically, and as of right now have been having difficulty competing with those in the United States.
I happen to take a stance somewhere in the middle. I do not believe that we should be limiting corporations just out of purely to gain a perceived tactical advantage. I do believe that companies as large and powerful such as these do need some sort of rules and regulations to follow, especially when it comes to data that may be personally identifiable. Big tech companies in America have pretty much cornered the market, and the users of their product, whether it be a website, a service, or piece of hardware, do not really have much say as to how this personally relevant data that is collected can be used. Whether it is buried somewhere in fine text in their 200 page terms of service, or it plainly not even being stated, most people do not really have a choice when it comes to using or not using their products.
Internet is almost a necessity, and although if we disagree with any polices that these tech giants have stated and set forth we can just choose not to use their service, it is almost not very realistic to go about handling it in such a way. Its as if car companies started collecting all sorts of data on drivers (where they drive, when they drive, who they drove with, how they acted in the car, what music they played, how fast it took to accelerate, etc.), and offered no alternative other than “don’t use our product”. Unless you are living in a busy city, cars are pretty much required to be normally productive citizens. It is the same with most of this technology.
No longer do people write letters in the mail, we now instead hop on Facebook or our Gmail account and communicate. The great majority of people choose this, and so it would be hard to try and persuade others to go back to snail-mail. I understand many of these services are offered to us for free, but are they really? They collect vast amounts of data that is often sold and analyzed by super-computers in which the results are then sold again to more companies. This information is very valuable for big companies.
It is used to analyze trends in the population, which influences what these companies will choose to manufacture and sell. Every time you visit a website, the advertisements are tailored exclusively toward you, based on the information that they have collected from you through location, history, cookies, and flash cookies (which are not deleted even when you “clear” your normal cookies), etc. This information is extremely powerful for any handful of corporations to possess, enabling them to predict, and essentially control to a certain degree, human behavior.