A Big Tech vs. Big Government showdown is far less likely than a marriage of the titans.
Big Tech’s Beginnings
I began using Google’s search engine in 1998. Google’s search engine was far superior to Yahoo from a coverage standpoint and at the time I was the only person in Putnam Investments’ Fixed Income operation using “Google”, which had yet to become one of the most common words in the English language. Google was useful in gathering information about various corporate issuers. Shortly thereafter I began using Gmail. It was not until circa 2006 that I came across a Technology startup – OpSource – that used Gmail and Google’s calendar (now part of Google Workspace) rather than Microsoft Outlook – the industry default at that time.
Today Google operates the dominant search platform between its core search engine and YouTube (view YouTube’s trends report HERE). Google’s use cases seem infinite. We recently wrote about a number of these use cases in our TEK2day article: It’s Google’s World. We Just Live In It. Google’s usage will continue to explode as more people join the platform, as newer use cases (Google for Education, Stadia) emerge, and as people and organizations increasingly store and share information in the cloud. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have enjoyed a similar growth trajectory and adoption curve over the past 20 years and these companies and their respective platforms have also become household names.
Big Tech and User-Level Intelligence
Big Tech’s ubiquity lends itself to a general intelligence gathering capability that is monetized by business models powered by Advertising and Subscription revenue. Everyone that conducts a Google search, that clicks on a YouTube video (while signed into Google), that uses Gmail, Google Photos, Google Nest, Google Assistant or any other Google service leaves a digital footprint that provides Google with granular, real-time information about user preferences and personality. The same is true for Facebook and its various properties, Twitter, TikTok, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney and every other online service. Over the past 20 years Google and more recently Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have leveraged this granular, user-level intelligence to turn the Advertising industry on its head. Want to make the Ads stop? Subscribe to YouTube Premium or YouTube Music Premium. What is the quality of the user-level intelligence? Facebook for example knows you as well as you know yourself.
This abundant user-level intelligence powers a variety of tools and services across industries including Media & Entertainment, Retail, Financial Services & Insurance, Healthcare, Law Enforcement and Government.
Big Tech and Big Government
Big Government will use Big Tech for more than exercising political influence. Federal, State & Local Government will follow the commercial sector and increasingly manage government workflows and data by using a combination of AWS, Azure and GCP – primarily AWS and Azure – as the core Technology platforms for various departments and initiatives. Recall that Microsoft’s Azure unit recently won the much publicized Department of Defense $10 Billion JEDI contract. Amazon’s AWS unit is contesting that decision.
Various Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies rely on Big Tech for a variety of intelligence gathering and related efforts including social media listening, predictive analytics, computer vision-powered satellite imagery analysis, facial recognition, NLP-powered text analytics, drone surveillance and much more.
Big Government’s willingness to leverage Big Tech to exercise political influence is a logical yet immoral use of Big Tech’s capabilities. Some of the Big Tech techniques mentioned in the preceding paragraph are used by Big Government in conjunction with additional techniques to exercise political influence. This problem will only get worse with time and is more than “Democrat vs. Republican”. For example, former Democrat Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard sued Google for what she believes (we agree), was Google’s censorship of her online advertising campaign during the time of the Democrat primary debates (see video clips of Ms. Gabbard explaining her position below).
We believe that Uganda in a ham-fisted way may be taking the correct approach to social media which is to relegate social media to the sidelines as social media and Big Tech have done to their political opponents. We recommend that readers delete their social media accounts in order to protect PII data not only from the platforms themselves but from nefarious actors who hack the platforms and trick users into sharing PII data. Further, our experience is such that 3-4 years ago Twitter and to a lesser degree Facebook were effective tools for marketing our CEORater platform and TEK2day content. This is far less true today. Facebook and Twitter have evolved from places to find and share interesting content to political cesspools – especially Twitter.