It is common knowledge that our lives are controlled by the smartphones that we hold in our hands. It is a baffling thought that a little device can hold so much power over millions of people at a time. Websites like Facebook and Google are part of our everyday lives to the extent that we don’t even think twice before using them.
Ever since Facebook and Google decided to go public with their shares years ago, it has caused lawmakers throughout the United States to put them under the microscope. These regulators, so to speak, are not just looking at them sharply, but rather they are dissecting them, layer by layer, to understand how they work and do their business online.
Google Surveillance and Facebook Ads
Facebook may be associated with cute puppy videos, but that is not at all how it generates its profits, and neither does Google. While they may be used for one purpose, Facebook for socializing and Google as an online encyclopedia, they rely on two key factors to generate their profits. They both require surveillance and targeted advertisement to lure in customers, thereby increasing the money that they generate. An estimate of 63 percent of the United States digital advertising market is controlled by these two Silicon Valley titans.
Big Trouble Headed Their Way
The European Union has recently taken a major interest in this issue and has renewed their stance on the privacy of citizens. This is what stands as a major threat to both Facebook and Google. As the new General Data Protection Regulation will be in full effect from May, courtesy of the EU, you can easily expect that websites like Facebook and Google will start to prompt you to pay a sum if you decline their updated terms and conditions. Basically, if you want the choice of what you do and do not agree with what’s in their terms and conditions, then you have to pay for their services. We suppose that the only reason these services have been free for us so far is that, in return, they are stripping us of our privacy rights.
“These laws and regulations, as well as any associated inquiries or investigations or any other government actions, may be costly to comply with and may delay or impede the development of new products, result in negative publicity, increase our operating costs, require significant management time and attention, and subject us to remedies that may harm our business, including fines or demands or orders that we modify or cease existing business practices.”
Facebook in its quarterly report at Securities and Exchange Commission Filing
A Drop In The Ocean of Investigations
The privacy regulations aren’t the only thing Facebook and Google need to worry about, as there are a series of investigations currently being held against them on account of abusive practices allegedly conducted by these websites. In 2017, Google was fined $2.8 billion for prioritizing and favoring its own products in the search results as compared to the ones sold by its competitors.
In a report conducted in Germany by its antitrust commission last December, it was apparent that Facebook combines the data it receives from its users and uses it to target ads specifically tailed for each user with the help of several algorithms and data from its apps, like Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook has also been investigated by France and Ireland’s antitrust commissions on the same matter and has been given warnings.
Facebook and Google: Could It Really Be That Bad?
We need to stop and think about what we are letting into our lives. It doesn’t come as a surprise to find ads tailored to you based on what you previously searched on Google or Facebook, does it? It isn’t just a coincidence. As it has been happening around the world, it has started causing people to stop and think why.
Information is a privilege and while we mindlessly surf through Facebook and Google, they peek back into our lives and steal information that they have no right over. What we want is for Facebook and Google to be regulated. So what if we have to pay them money just because we don’t agree with their terms of service? At least, our privacy will be intact.