Data is often called the oil of the 21st century.
The more tech companies know about their users, the more effectively they can direct them to goods and services that they are likely to buy. The more companies know about their users, the more competitive they are in the market.
Custom-tailored capitalism is what has made Google, Facebook, Amazon and others the richest companies in the world. This profit incentive has turned big tech into a competitive field of mass intelligence gathering. The better and more comprehensive the data, the higher profits will be.
But this business model – what I consider spying machines – has enormous potential to violate civil liberties. Big tech is already being used abroad to enhance the power of repressive regimes, as my work and others’ has shown.
While it is not presently a direct threat to U.S. democracy, I worry that the potential for future abuses exists so long as big tech remains largely unregulated.
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Johnson, Chase, "Big Tech Surveillance Could Damage Democracy" (2019). University Author Recognition Bibliography: 2019. 8.