Are you worried about the dangers posed by Big Tech? Then you’re not alone. According to one US study, 86% of adults said they are “very concerned” about how the likes of Facebook and Google use their personal information.”
But the privacy issue is just one reason to be worried. The major social networks are run by corporations that wield huge influence over our online behaviours.
According to Statista:
- Facebook owns four out of 10 of the biggest social media platforms
- Approximately 2.5 billion people (out of a global population of 7.8bn) log onto one of Facebook’s platforms (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger) every month.
But Facebook is just one of a small group of tech giants which hold a massive influence over the lives and decisions of a huge proportion of the world’s population.
But how do they do it? Read on to find out four ways that Big Tech companies are taking control of YOU.
1. They make a product out of people
The business model behind social networks relies on using people as the product. You don’t pay them with money, so they need to gain financial value out of you somehow.
A Netflix documentary called ‘The Social Dilemma’ highlights the way tech companies manipulate users through algorithms and data harvesting practices. It reveals how people only see what the platform wants them to see, and how their attention is sold to advertisers in an automated bidding war.
Everything you do on the site is ‘recorded’. For example, what you search for, the links you click on, how long you stay on a post or page, previous purchase history and much much more. This is all fed into an algorithm which comes back to you with targeted messages from advertisers.
Often, your behaviours on other platforms and websites are also fed into the algorithm. This practice is known as omni-channel marketing. Essentially, tech companies are able to join-the-dots from the individual actions you’ve taken on different websites and devices in order to identify you as one individual.
This is great for advertisers. But not so great for your privacy or individual liberty.
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2. They cultivate addiction
You might have major concerns about the big social media platforms. You might want to quit Facebook, Twitter and the like. But they are so darn addictive!
And that’s a big part of the problem: they are designed to be addictive. Teams of behavioural scientists and psychologists are paid big bucks by firms like Facebook to keep you ensnared on their platforms. They know exactly how to exploit the human mind.
Those who work beneath the bonnet understand its danger only too well. That’s why Silicon Valley is host to a number of ‘low tech’ schools, which are attended by the children of those building the technology. They know how much time and effort goes into making digital technology irresistible. So, they shield their own family yet continue to rake in money for making the platforms even more addictive and exploitative.
As one Google Insider said:
“The tech companies do know that the sooner you get kids, adolescents, or teenagers used to your platform, the easier it is to become a lifelong habit.”
For many it already is a lifelong habit. Maybe it’s time to break it?
3. They profit from your data
With all your data at their disposal, tech firms can then sell it onto advertisers.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal was a high profile example. The data of 87m Facebook users was accessed by a political consultancy firm in order to provide targeted political messaging. But this is just a drop in the ocean.
Much data sharing is perfectly legal. For example, dating app Tinder uses information from your Facebook profile in order to find better matches, but it also measures different data about you once you start using the app to help improve the user experience, including whom you are chatting with.
The simple truth is this: selling your data is the bedrock of their success. Your data is their lifeblood no matter how many grand claims they make about their privacy credentials in slick public announcements.
The aim is simple: to link users with advertisers in the most profitable manner.
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4. They censor free speech
Free speech was once hailed as a great benefit of social networks, but a new fashion of ‘fact-checking’ and de-platforming has risen since the start of the pandemic.
The problem is, while some factual inaccuracies are ignored, others are censored. It seems that social networks are deciding on the parameters of debate based on their own beliefs rather than a genuine commitment to truth.
Recent announcements reveal how social media platforms are effectively squeezing the parameters of acceptable debate:
- On December 15th, Facebook reported it would be sending notifications to anyone who had liked, commented, or shared a piece of COVID-19 “misinformation” that’s been taken down for violating the platform’s terms of service. Not just that: it would then point them in the direction of “trustworthy sources”.
- On December 17th, Instagram announced a similar policy (predictable given Facebook is its parent company).
- On December 21st, Twitter announced it had tightened restrictions on what people are allowed to say. It stated they are “enforcing their new policy in close consultation with public health authorities.”
It’s time to break up with Big Tech!
Thankfully, there is another way of socialising online which doesn’t involve sacrificing your privacy or having your experience ‘personalised’. At Autarki, we provide an ad-free social network which doesn’t utilise intrusive and exploitative algorithms.
For less than a cup of coffee each month, you can gain peace of mind and maintain friendships – or forge new ones – free of the looming shadow of Big Tech.