According to T. Alexander Puutioi, a PhD researcher at the University of Turku and adjunct professor at New York University, the economy might function better if more power is taken back by consumers in lieu of breaking up big tech companies.
In an op-ed published by Fast Company, Puutioi says that the tech industry has become a key model for how big businesses can take over the economy. Because of their power, tech companies have been able to skew elections based on racial profiling, shared users’ personal data with third parties, and ultimately, questioned by consumers if they’ve “become too powerful for their own good.”
Some politicians are pushing to break up big tech companies. However, Puutioi says that won’t solve anything; it might even tank antitrust regarding other issues in the tech industry. Instead, Puutioi suggests industry decision makers take smaller steps to reel in power for consumers. For instance, he suggests making data protection a hot topic, creating laws similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. Solutions like this would “empower consumers to protect themselves and incentivize big tech to curb its anti-consumeristic antics.”
Puutioi also says that informed consent of users should be required of tech companies. This would give users clearer visibility how their data is being used, and more control over which data they opt to share and keep private. Establishing a data protection agency would help enforce these practices, too.
Finally, in the event that the federal government doesn’t prioritize consumers’ privacy and needs (pointing to the current administration), Puutioi says that states can act on their own accord. He points to the work being done in California with the California Consumer Privacy Act, and New York’s SHIELD Act. “It is only a matter of time before other progressive state legislatures follow suit.”
Regardless of how profitable tech businesses are, they shouldn’t forget to take care of the people who paid to get them there: “And in 2020, nothing should be simpler than ensuring that American consumers have the most basic of rights over their data and that they are treated with dignity and respect even when online,” Puutioi says.