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There Are No Good Tech Giants, Only Degrees of Badness

I wrote the following in my personal journal yesterday:

“I’ve been reading about the latest revelations about Apple’s dealings with the Chinese government. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that none of the major tech companies has the interests of their users at heart, not even Apple — the only variable is how far they’re willing to go to screw over everyone else. Not a happy thought, and I wish there were more things we could do collectively to force change. It’s both bad for humanity and the environment in the long term.”

Only Microsoft has ever faced any consequence for their actions, and while the effects of their settlement with the US Government did change their behaviour, the Microsoft of today is only ‘better’ in the sense that they’re no longer openly aggressive towards others. If anything, Microsoft has probably been emboldened by the relatively mild treatment that Google, Facebook, Amazon and the other giants received in the past from regulators.

As an individual, it sometimes feels like I cannot escape the reach of the giants. Even if I don’t use their products, I am affected by their actions — and inaction — as well as their indirect activities which seek to shape laws to either cement their power or weaken competitors. Even when those actions appear to be beneficial to me, I’m in no doubt that in the end the only interest is in their bottom line.

(I should add that it’s not just Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft that concern me here. They are the most visible, but there are plenty more, notable the big telecom companies, who are happy to have the spotlight thrown onto those firms so they can continue their own abuses in the shadows.)

I also worry about the effect these companies are having on the planet, as they keep pushing us to Buy More Stuff and give them our data to monetise. Token gestures such as recycling won’t cut it any more, we need to think in more radical terms, of products that last longer and services that use fewer resources.

The only consolation that I can draw right now is that eventually, all of these companies will face their demise, either through internal entropy or external forces. Throwing money into lobbying and PR will delay the inevitable, but now prevent it. But that could take decades, at this rate.

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