The Issue with Breaking Up Big Tech
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger – a professor of internet governance at the Oxford Internet Institute – believes that breaking apart Big Tech isn’t the right answer. He believes that splitting up the tech giants could lead to a loss in service quality, such as poor results from internet searches.
When a company is broken up, data silos are created. This limits the ability for a range of services to benefit from the full dataset, as accessing more than one piece could be incredibly complex or legally banned. For example, while Google Maps may provide accurate directions if separated from the larger company, it may struggle to provide details on local restaurants, gas stations, or other businesses if those data points aren’t part of Google Maps’ system.
Additionally, he doesn’t think that preventing these companies from favoring their own service offerings, which would be a less dramatic move, would stop them from dominating the marketplace.
Sharing Instead of Breaking Up
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is advocating for a “progressive data-sharing mandate.” This approach would require companies that meet or exceed a certain size to share some of their data with smaller organizations. The data would be anonymized to ensure privacy, but would otherwise be made available.
By giving startups and smaller companies access to the data collected by tech giants on a limited scale, they can access diverse datasets. This could give them a competitive leg up over Big Tech businesses that are limited to a single dataset, even if it is vast.
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger believes his approach would address the root cause of Big Tech’s dominance. Further, it could support innovation, allowing startups to get a foothold if they create new offerings that could be beneficial, making the marketplace more competitive along the way.
There would be challenges in implementing such a strategy. Not only does the amount of data that would become shareable need to be defined – such as setting it as a percentage of the total data held – but figuring out how much data Big Tech actually has and in what categories could be a cumbersome undertaking. Creating a directory is a plausible solution, but it would take time and energy to organize the content properly.
Ultimately, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger’s idea could be a viable alternative to splitting up Big Tech companies and may provide greater benefit to startups, small business, and consumers at-large.
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