Many a technology company, especially the social media ones, may soon be yearning for the good old days a decade ago. For them, life was much simpler back then. Create a nice way for people to connect with each other to share ideas, videos, photos and what they had for breakfast. Then along came the inevitable tragedy of the commons, and a shift in global society and politics. And data breaches and data abusers like Cambridge-Analytica. Then GDPR in the EU. Microsoft faced the first anti-trust battles in the US and then the EU. Google has faced such challenges in the EU.
2018 has been a pivotal year for technology giants. Privacy issues, trust in artificial intelligence systems, Apple now facing monopoly challenges with its app store. Facebook and Google both being hauled before US Senate and the UK government tried to bring in Zuckerberg, though he decided not to show.
What we also witnessed with the Senate hearings and Facebook was an incredible and deep misunderstanding of technology by politicians. One can surmise that it would be the same with such hearings in Canada, the UK and many other countries. Governments have very little understanding of what technology is doing to their countries.
This creates a dynamic set of tensions. It would be far simpler if it were just anti-trust, but it’s not anymore. It’s that, plus privacy, geopolitics, espionage, cybersecurity and more. Technology has become so deeply entrenched across every aspect of our lives. And as with any technology, it is always a double-edged sword. But rarely does the creator of a technology understand how it might be used or perverted.
Regulation is inevitable. The EU’s implementation of GDPR, no matter how onerous a law it is, was the tipping point. Tech giants will be in a showdown in 2019 with governments. We can expect more anti-trust, privacy and other challenges by governments.