Transparency in Big Tech
In the current connected world we find ourselves in, millions of people would be completely lost without the platforms and devices that allow us to work, socialise and play.
The vast majority of these platforms and devices are controlled by a select group of large corporations generally referred to as “Big Tech”. These comprise some of the most recognisable brands in the world: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft.
In the last decade, these companies have come under widespread scrutiny for reasons related to data privacy, election interference, labour issues and monopolisation. With concerns over the power that these few have, over so many of us. Recent years have seen strong governmental rebuttal to Big Tech. In an attempt to regulate these corporations, as they begin to leverage a bid to gain control on an exponential level.
Today we look at just some of the ways government and organisations are fighting back.
European Union lightning cable legislation
We start with the European Union, whom have long taken a hard stance against Big Tech companies in an attempt to regulate their scale.
One of the most interesting pieces of legislation will require all mobile phones and other electronic devices sold in Europe to have a common charging standard. If passed, every major phone manufacturer (including Apple’s iPhone) would have to confine to one type of charger port, in Europe at least.
According to Press Agencies, the Union will be ready to present the legislation as soon as September, which has been hotly debated for several years within the organisation. The EU executive is now in the process of drafting the new rules, and although the details aren’t clear, they’re widely expected to give the award to USB-C as the new common standard of a mobile phone charger.
At present, smartphones sold throughout the European Union use an array of different charging ports. The problem with this, as far as the EU is concerned, is that it increases the amount of electronic waste as consumers are forced to buy new chargers and discard old ones when upgrading to newer smartphones. There is debate however concerned with regulating the design and promoting conformity.
US Congress breaking up Big Tech
The United States Congress has seen years of anti-trust issues and alleged election interference which has promoted a bipartisan push towards breaking up Big Tech. The companies are deemed to be an important point of review for the US government before they “run out of control.”
In late June, a House committee put forward its most aggressive proposal yet for restraining the corporate giants. Voting for a bill that would make it easier to break up companies like Facebook, Alphabet (Google) and Amazon.
The discourse around anti-trust with the named tech companies has caused a large amount of pushback against the proposals from big names in the tech industry. It’s also split both the Democrats and Republicans, with members of both parties fighting for and against the proposal.
The bill would essentially allow the federal government to sue to break up companies that both operate a dominant platform and sell their own goods or services on it. If the arrangement poses a significant conflict of interest. It comes at a time of extreme-scale for these companies that in the past have opted for “self-regulation”.
Again, there are significant points of debate on both sides with many opposition sides taking the stance of internet freedom and negative government inclusion. Bills of this kind are unprecedented and could change the world as we know it.
Another hard-hitting European Union policy that shaped the technology industry, is the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Brought into force in 2016 to protect the privacy and data of European Citizens for the modern age.
When initially implemented, it had huge effects on major corporations and led to expenses of billions of dollars in an attempt to comply with the regulation. This was particularly difficult for Big Tech companies with the majority being US-based and having a much looser set of privacy laws on home soil than in the EU.
In recent years, with public opinion turning and with governments beginning to clamp down on these corporations, a host of mouth-watering fines have been handed out to the major players.
In July of this year, Luxembourg’s data protection agency told Amazon it would have to pay a fine of €746 million($888 million) for violating the GDPR. The fine came from Luxembourg’s CNPD following an investigation into the way Amazon processes customer data and was revealed in a regulatory filing by the company at end of July.
An irony was found with it being Luxembourg, with a population of 613,000 people that has the regulatory control of Amazon, who in 2020 had 1.2 million employees. Although relatively small in size, the Luxembourg ruling was a potential catalyst for larger governments to take note of.
A whole host of policies and actions are being taken by both sides of the Western World to clamp down on Big Tech once and for all.
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