With the news that two-thirds of Americans favor breaking up big tech combined with the news that Liz Warren (the biggest advocate of the idea) has broken out of the pack in Iowa, I thought I would return to this topic.
I wrote about this back when Liz first put the idea forward.
I am in favor of reigning in the monopoly/duopoly/oligopoly power of the large American tech companies. I am also in favor of reigning in the power of large tech companies that are not resident in the US.
Doing one without the other is bad policy and could give large tech companies outside of the US (particularly in Asia) a competitve advantage.
A better approach, as I advocated for in my earlier post on this topic, are policies, like the European’s GDPR, that would impact all companies doing business in the US equally.
I do not love GDPR. It is overly bureaucratic and for the most part has resulted in all of us robotically opting into being cookied everywhere.
But users do have a right to online privacy. We also have a right to self sovereign identity and ownership of our data.
Apple is offering Sign In With Apple in iOS13 to help us reduce our reliance on signing in with Facebook and Google. That’s great but it just replaces one boogyman with another.
What we need is an open sign-in protocol in which users control their sign-in keys and also all of the data we create and have created over the years once we are signed in.
Government can force industry into a regime like that with regulations that dictate that tech companies of all sizes adopt such approaches.
That is what we should be doing to reduce the market power of big tech instead of breaking them up. That is because their market power comes from this single sign-on oligopoly and the data that comes with it.
Government should not dictate the design of such a protocol or any of the technology that is required to produce such a regime. The market can and will do that once the requirements are put in place. We have much of what we need already in the form of cryptography and user centric wallet infrastructure.
We just need a forcing function to get big tech to adopt these technologies, which they won’t do on their own because they will reduce their market powers. Which is exactly why we need to do this.