How dependent are you on Big Tech? If you’re like me, it’s an addiction. From online purchases to product reviews and news, we rely on our devices to purchase and to read. In the US, a handful of big tech companies dominate the tech sector, and most of us, without hesitation or skepticism, use one or more of their products or services. Who are these tech titans?
Apple is the most financially profitable of the titans, in rankings by Forbes. Samsung Electronics, Microsoft, and Alphabet (colloquially referred to as Google) are also top of Forbes’ list, with Facebook listed in the 7th spot. Of the top ten companies, only two are located outside the US—Samsung in South Korea, and Tencent Holdings in China where, despite some media fawning over changes, the communist party still controls every single person.
I confess I rarely used to think about tech companies on matters of privacy and manipulation. Now I think about it a lot. Sometimes my husband and I will be talking about something, and later, when I look at my phone, an ad for that something will pop up. That is creepy, unless you’re one of those brainwashed types eager to give up your First and Fourth Amendment rights.
Some of these companies have absorbed large plats of cyberspace, such as Google’s acquisition of YouTube and domination of the digital ad market. Google has also changed its search engine, and although the methodology is secret, it’s obvious how that has changed. Do a search and you’ll come up with large corporate sites every time. I’d dare say Google’s changes, from the mid-2000s to now, put quite a few indie bloggers out of business. While the company’s persona runs to the left, as with most savvy corporations and individuals, Google appears to not want to pay more taxes than necessary. Imagine that.
Right now Facebook is on the congressional hot seat in an era where being a member of Congress appears to be holding hearing after hearing about this or that. Part of the ire directed at Facebook involves advertising and data collection, but having watched several segments of questioning by both parties in Congress, I have to say there isn’t much new in politics regardless of the methods used. I’d also dare say Facebook has probably helped create and/or advance more small businesses than any member of Congress from either party in our country.
One negative from Facebook for the indie blogger is the concentration of comments on the social media site as opposed to blogs. Back in the day, indie blogs provided fora for debate and dialog, but now most commenters respond to links posted on Facebook and other social media websites. I find this a bit troubling because I miss those communities of old, especially the poetry groups where poetry wasn’t the only topic in play. News and politics, entertainment and sports—a couple of the groups I was in covered the gamut.
The company dominating what you read on the Web, if you use search, is Google. I told my husband recently, as he did a search on my computer, to avoid the top links. “Why?” he asked.
I told him the good stuff is usually midway down the page and often in the second page of search results, and this is doubly true if you are looking for political news. There’s also a problem, uncovered by The Dallas Morning News, with scam businesses and Google maps. People forget there are other search engines—the privacy friendly DuckDuckGo is but one. The website Search Engine Journal has a list of others, with Twitter included. It’s a sad fact that most political and government news does break in the cesspool we call Twitter, where ‘reporters’ become part of their own stories.
You can also use a browser other than the privacy sucking Chrome. Firefox is popular, courtesy of recently released Firefox 70.
Finally, a word of caution if you are young, and by young, I mean under 40 or so. What is placed on a device usually stays there regardless of what you do. Never assume it’s ok to put very personal data, or compromising data, including text messages, on a device. That assumption will come back to haunt you just when you least expect it. If you’ve grown up in the digital age, as opposed to before it occurred, deal with technology with skepticism and reserve. You’ll be doing yourself and your loved ones a favor.
(Kay B. Day/Oct. 24, 2019)
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