2.05.2018 || Research and Source Evaluation 9

Regulating the internet giants: The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data


The writer of this article likens data to oil, in that it requires regulation to prevent those firms that own it from gaining an excess of power. In the 20th century, there were pleas for Standard Oil to be broken up and this is being echoed with the tech giants within this new, digital landscape.
The combination of the increased amounts of data being produced and the increasing use of AI to extract value and insights from data – which the writer describes as data distillerie –  dramatically alters the competition between firms and level of information on an individual to firm basis.

Clearly the issue is not just the collection of data, but the concern is also that the power is concentrated to a handful of firms. In fact, the revenue that Google and Facebook generated in 2016 made up the majority of that generated in America. I found this to be a valuable read, as it provided a balanced view into both the benefits and drawbacks associated with data collection and analytics. Indeed, the ability to collect more data has allowed Tesla to improve its self-driving cars through machine-learning and therefore data can protect us.

On the other hand, the writer raises a very good point in that big tech companies of the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon have a ‘God’s eye view’ of what is going on within their market so can suppress start-ups and emerging companies from gaining too much traction within the market. As a result, the power shifts to these few large firms. We can already see a similar thing happening with Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and Whatsapp, which eliminates any potential rivalry that may arise.

Amazon Goes After Your Kids: Podcast 366


In this podcast, the presenters discuss the issues that may arise as a result of big data analytics technology. The example that they explore is the Amazon Echo, some of which have been developed especially for children.

These Internet of Things devices allow companies to collect a whole variety of information about a user. This effectively allows them to build psychographic profiles on an individual to individual basis. This is anticipated to become increasingly popular with the introduction of the Amazon Echo, as it can build a profile about a child over the course of their life and therefore tailor and sell products to children as they progress into adulthood.

Internet of Things devices represent a shift in the structure of data collection, especially with the introduction of microphones which has increased surveillance.

Another issue discussed in this podcast is how personalised ads can be damaging as people’s own views are reaffirmed and thus normalised – and so, as the presenters discuss, hatred and misogyny can be normalised. Furthermore, the Internet allows fringe views to be easily accessed by people and can thus influence people further. As a result, dangerous views can be spread.

This is a similar idea to one I read in a book by Eli Pariser, of serendipity – which ensures people are not only surrounded by ideologies that support and reaffirm their own but open them up to new ideas and different ways of thinking. Therefore personalisation is not necessarily seen to be a good thing as it limits people to the confines of their own thoughts, which defies the whole reason the Internet was brought into existence in the first place.


Regulating Facebook merely nips at the edge of a bigger problem


This article explores the idea that the rise in power of social media platforms cannot be corrected by regulation alone, as it represents a structural shift in the economy as a whole. This is as a result of the monopoly power that these tech companies have (eg. Facebook) which give them the power to sway opinion and therefore reduce faith in democracy, as suggested by the writer.

Data is now described to be the ‘world’s most valuable resource’ in place of oil and have become key in driving growth to firms. (https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21721656-data-economy-demands-new-approach-antitrust-rules-worlds-most-valuable-resource). In fact, the writer claims that machine learning can increase investment returns significantly (from 10 to 30%).

However, crucially, AI is dependent entirely on data – the more the better – hence the increased surveillance tactics that are now being used. The writer of the article correctly points out that we need to find the crucial balance between competitiveness, and individual rights to privacy.

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