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.