Big-Tech Sympathy

By Mark Nuyens
6 min. read📱 Technology

Although many consumers expect free online products and services, it's important to remember that there is an economic aspect that cannot be ignored. Instead of demanding the best of both worlds, we should also consider the challenges tech companies are facing today.

Although I've been fairly critical of big-tech companies in the past, I also believe it's important to explore the narrative from their perspective. While my primary focus remains on the role of consumers as the guiding force in shaping values and practices, acknowledging the constraints that tech companies face is also important. These constraints, be they shareholder expectations, corporate policies, cultural norms, or political influences, shape the intricate dance these companies must perform. After all, navigating market demands, regulatory compliance, and addressing diverse interests within a colossal corporate structure is a task some might consider impossible.

I think considering the broader picture is crucial for constructing a narrative that aligns with reality and working towards realistic solutions. While I've already addressed the importance of re-evaluating technology from the ground up, we should also be considering societal norms, user responsibilities, available technological solutions, and how tech companies respond to these demands. A comprehensive understanding of these aspects is the foundation for crafting nuanced solutions to contemporary challenges in technological innovation, security, and privacy.

To be honest, I reject the idea of a simple "stick instead of the carrot" approach. Fines imposed on tech companies may become mere business expenses, widening the trust gap between regulators, consumers, and tech entities. Meanwhile, the process of determining legal breaches is costly, cumbersome and detracts from progress. Fines, while they certainly have their place, should primarily be viewed as signals and opportunities for improving existing, fundamental solutions that prevent future abuses and enhance the current landscape, rather than just affecting these companies economically.

While sympathizing with tech companies, we can't ignore the unrealistic expectations from users of having free digital products without compromising privacy. These expectations likely started in an era when music and movies were freely shared online, cultivating the idea that most things on the web should be accessed for free. Services like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube further solidified this principe. However, in most cases it's not aligned with economic reality. If users were asked to pay even a very low fee, many would probably look for free alternatives. After users discover these free products are selling their personal data, companies are blamed of abuse and deceit, highlighting the pervasive belief that the web is synonymous with free things.

To bridge this gap of understanding, part of the solution may lie in educating users about the substantial investments and efforts behind creating and managing digital products. In this scenario, tech companies would share the various complexities they face, making users aware of what they are truly paying for. Transparency becomes a tool not only for building trust but also for showcasing the value and difficult decisions involved in the process of running a business. A dedicated "behind the scenes" page could explain the mechanics, intricacies, and costs, possibly achieving a deeper appreciation for the services provided.

However, this doesn't change the fact tech companies are responsible and consumers play a crucial role in speaking up. But while users fight for their rights, they must also be willing to look at things from the perspective of these companies. Transparency becomes a two-way street, establishing trust and convincing potential customers of the value and challenges inherent in the services. Only through this mutual understanding we will be able allow for innovative and collaborative solutions.