Controversial Reads 061122

In the hands of police and other government agencies, face recognition technology presents an inherent threat to our privacy, free expression, information security, and social justice.

From social credit scores and online censorship to electronic billboards that display a citizen’s “violations” like jaywalking, surveillance is a part of everyday life for millions of Chinese people.

But there’s a much bigger threat to democracy coming out of Silicon Valley and it’s this: America’s largest financial and tech increasingly act as independent countries, routinely exporting jobs, money and technology to our most significant global adversary.

It’s difficult to overstate how dramatic this shift is, both in substance and in tone. Overpaying, and even coddling, talented engineers has, for years, been seen as a point of pride among tech’s leadership class.

Excessive centralization can stymie coordination and erode freedom, democracy, and economic dynamism—decentralization is supposed to be the remedy. But the term on its own is too vague to be a coherent end goal.

In early March, weeks after senators advanced a sweeping bill to expand competition in the tech industry, a regional newspaper more than 2,000 miles from Silicon Valley ran a defensive op-ed.

Raskin didn’t foresee how tech giants would exploit his design principle, creating apps to automatically serve more and more content without your asking for it—or necessarily being able to opt out.

And although most legislators haven’t the foggiest idea of how the internet actually works, there is a bipartisan consensus that ignorance shouldn’t preclude action.

Florida and Texas passed statutes last year that require the fair, unbiased treatment of social media users. The Ohio attorney general also brought a lawsuit asking an Ohio state court to declare that Google is a common carrier. Big Tech, of course, opposed all these efforts in the courts.

How did Facebook become a business worth $1 trillion at one point last year? Not just by fulfilling its mission of “connecting people,” but by keeping them hooked on the site, sometimes for hours on end.

The truth is out there, but Twitter is not forthcoming. Why might this be? Here is where we get to the core of the issue: the reach data provided by these companies—this pertains not only to Twitter but to hundreds of thousands of sites—form the basis of its pricing structure for advertisers and therefore drive the fundamentals of the business model.

Do you ever get the feeling that we’re all just…stuck? The notion keeps coming up in conversations I have with friends, relatives, even the occasional stranger.

While Apple bills the service as “designed with users’ financial health in mind,” BNPL is a practice that has come under scrutiny by government regulators as something that could potentially harm customers.