Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Vivalvi (and former CEO of Opera):
Recently, our Google AdWords campaigns were suspended without warning. This was the second time that I have encountered this situation. This time, however, timing spoke volumes.
I had several interviews where I voiced concerns about the data gathering and ad targeting practices – in particular, those of Google and Facebook. They collect and aggregate far too much personal information from their users. I see this as a very serious, democracy-threatening problem, as the vast targeting opportunities offered by Google and Facebook are not only good for very targeted marketing, but also for tailoredpropaganda. The idea of the Internet turning into a battlefield of propaganda is very far away from the ideal.
Two days after my thoughts were published in an article by Wired, we found out that all the campaigns under our Google AdWords account were suspended – without prior warning. Was this just a coincidence? Or was it deliberate, a way of sending us a message?
Large technology companies have an immense amount of control over and influence on our society, far more than they – or anyone else, for that matter – care to admit. We’re way past the point where governments should step in and start to correct this dangerous situation. It’s time for another breakup of the Bell System. It’s time we, as society, take a long, hard look at corporations – in tech and elsewhere – and ask ourselves if we really want to be subject to the control of organisations we effectively have no democratic control over.
I’m not a proponent of nationalisation, but I am a proponent of breaking up Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and possibly others (I’m sticking to technology for now) to severely limit their power and influence. The products and services these companies create have become too important and too vital to the functioning of our society, and they should be treated as such.
It wouldn’t be the first time we, as society, decide a certain product has become too vital to leave in corporations’ unrestricted hands.
“I’m not a proponent of nationalisation, but I am a proponent of breaking up Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and possibly others (I’m sticking to technology for now) to severely limit their power and influence. The products and services these companies create have become too important and too vital to the functioning of our society, and they should be treated as such.”
Absolutely agree; I’m definitely not a proponent of nationalisation either but the reach, and intrusiveness, of companies like Facebook and Google, and their associated companies, e.g. Snapchat, where that association isn’t always obvious to end users, has created a situation where people are increasingly revealing an very detailed personal profile that is being used by these companies in ways that end users are unable to control. I’m avoiding Google where possible now, trying to create ‘air gaps’ but feel that even for sophisticated users there’s little that can be done to stop information leaking out.
I don’t know how governments would go about making ‘Baby Bells’ out of these huge organisations but something needs to be done, and the suspicion will be – if nothing does get done – that governments are enjoying the benefits of all this data gathering and profiling.