When tech goes too far

Oversight needed for powerful tech companies

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Photo Illustration: Keith Pawlowski

These are the leaders of some of the most powerful companies in the world. Left to right: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.

Keith Pawlowski, News Editor

Modern prevalence of technology has allowed us to become connected and has even made all of this virtual learning possible. However, much like the once revolutionary light bulbs that illuminate our nights, the proverbial light shone by the digital machines we enjoy has come at a cost.

Beyond the electricity bills and the frustration when the printer will not do the one job it was designed to do, financial, legal and ethical questions have appeared. Rapid advances in technology have created entirely new business opportunities practically overnight.

The age-old saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” should also be applied to the internet. Massive companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and more are effectively inescapable in daily life, but learning and knowledge can at least spread awareness to bring the situation to light. 

These mountainous enterprises have evolved much faster than the restrictions and regulations in the legislature governing them. As a result, new internet laws are presently  going through the bureaucratic U.S. legislative process. Meanwhile, corporations are raking in billions of dollars with policies largely motivated by financial gain and influence. For a company like Google that has an “Ethics & Compliance team” and its own Political Action Committee, the government should get involved with the digital power it has obtained.

A small example of this was demonstrated here at Freedom. On the morning of Dec. 14, certain Google services were experiencing an outage for some users, and Freedom was affected. Administration sent out a call to alert families that they were aware of issues surrounding Google service logins. Fortunately, the issue was resolved in about an hour. But should an extended outage occur, Freedom and many other districts would have to suspend virtual classes. The world will not end, but a broken classroom may put an uncomfortable edge on what would have been a normal remote school day.

Even for businesses that operate out of physical locations, essential services like email will likely be provided by big tech companies. Life-saving hospitals are certainly not a place where uncertainty about an integral computer system’s stability is welcome. A defibrillator is not a device to be broken by a faulty software update or tampered with by cybercriminals. Cybersecurity is a flourishing field, but special care and monitoring needs to be taken to ensure that these crucial services are given the most attention and protection.

In a world pushing to be more digital by the day, taking a moment to reflect on the conglomerates that dictate how we see it and how it evolves is more necessary than ever. Although abstinence from some of the world’s most powerful companies is largely futile, make sure to proceed with caution when using their services.