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To answer that question, Do tech companies have too much power – the old witty retort, “Is the Pope a Catholic?” comes immediately to mind.

Do tech companies have too much power? Well, do bears shit in the woods?

Let’s start from the simple premise – 90% of personally identifiable data was created in the past two years. Google knows what we search for, Facebook knows what we share, think and feel, and Amazon knows what we buy. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Do tech companies have too much power

GadgetGuy has been critical of Facebook for its blatant disregard of user privacy in pursuit of the holy advertising dollar.

Do tech companies have too much power

Now its Google’s turn to face the spotlight.

As I have stated before it is a matter of trust. I do not trust any tech company, but if I must, then I would like to see sensible, hopefully, global legislation that protects user privacy. Call it a digital bill of rights. If a company can work within those then great. If it cannot then good riddance.

Do tech companies have too much power

I chose to use Windows and Android.

By that choice, I have no alternative but to accept the legalese called an End User Licence Agreement that signs my rights away so these companies can ‘make life easier’. How? By using AI to make my device perform better, voice control, oh, and yes serve micro-targeted advertisements – the real online business model.

Now I am a tech savvy person. I know that in Windows case ShutUp10 will, in one easy click turn on all privacy features (I love this program) and I use Firefox as a browser which is locked down to ensure maximum privacy.

In Android, I go through and switch off every unnecessary app permission.  I wish ShutUpAndroid existed.

Do tech companies have too much power
So much data, so easily captured

The good news is Google’s Android Q will require background apps have explicit permission to track users’ locations. It will also limit access to hardware information (device fingerprinting) and will no longer track ‘affinity’ a.k.a. contacts for your friends. Google will hard sell privacy as a right – just as Apple and Microsoft have.

Back to Google. It would be remiss of GadgetGuy not to report on the latest news there.

First, read our Article on Google Snooping written in May 2018  – nearly a year ago. Oracle, mentioned this week in the news as a privacy crusader, put a submission to the ACCC. The ACCC publicly released all 113 submissions on 4 March.

Do tech companies have too much power

Oracle’s submission is one of the most controversial and decidedly anti-Google. It is sucking oxygen from the real purpose of the ACCC enquiry – to consider the basis of the necessary legislative framework. Remember that the submissions all push their author’s perspectives – as is their right.

Google also has a 73-page submission which I have read. Here is the gist!

Journalism has changed

The Internet facilitates increased competition [to traditional media like radio/TV/newspapers] through both professional news sites [like GadgetGuy] and amateur blogger/influencer news from around the world.

The cost of amateur entry is almost nil – anyone can self-publish. Google is an equal opportunity search engine that indexes news subject to algorithms that detect originality and authenticity. It also penalises plagiarism (duplicate content) and fake news by low or no search index rankings.

Google helps more than 1000 Australian and 80,000 global ‘genuine’ publishers to cut through the news static. It supports public interest journalism, and that includes traditional and trusted news sources despite some of these using paywalls to protect content – that simply drives readers to other sites.

Advertising has changed

When I did my PR degree over 40 years ago, advertising was known as a shotgun approach – a broad splatter of pellets hoping some hit someone. Advertisers would lament, “I know 90% of advertising misses the mark; the problem is that I don’t know which 10% is effective.”