Is Wisconsin stepping up in the world of tech?
June 18, 2019
- The success of big tech companies comes at a cost to our privacy and security
- Legislators on both sides of the aisle and even a prominent tech CEO are calling for tech companies to take responsibility for the chaos they’ve caused
- Rural tech hubs are growing in popularity and local communities stand to reap the rewards
With data breaches and privacy concerns as common as church on Sunday morning, big tech companies are looking more like the big bad wolf that huffs, puffs and blows your data right to the highest-paying bidder instead of the innovator that protects your data and ensures your safety.
Has big tech in Silicon Valley gotten too powerful?
Every time you sign into Facebook, buy a product from Amazon or search Google for an answer, you’re sharing access to your data. That could mean your name, email address, phone number, search history, purchase history, and more. Here’s the kicker: most of us don’t even realize what our data is being used for.
It’s no wonder we’ve gotten used to the idea that there’s nothing we can do about companies tracking our personal search history and every click we make online, then raking in millions from selling that data to third parties.
How we got here
Back in the day, starting a big tech company from your garage was pretty common. The early days of the Internet were full of innovation and exciting new technologies that could improve our everyday lives. But similar to what happened in the railroad industry, regulators didn’t understand the potential downsides of big innovative tech companies until the evidence started presenting itself.
What are the biggest problems facing tech companies?
Data breaches, privacy concerns, and stifling competition are the biggest concerns for regulators surrounding big tech. According to the Financial Times, Amazon controls a third of all online retail shopping in the U.S., Google owns 95 percent of all mobile searches, and Facebook owns data from four of the top eight social media apps. And then there’s Apple, the world’s first trillion-dollar company, who has been accused of breaking their own rules to promote their products over competitors.
The issue of trust
Behind all the data breaches and security concerns lies one basic issue surrounding big tech, and that is trust. Can we trust these companies to protect our personal information? Can we put the data of billions of people in their hands without knowing exactly how that information is used?
Regulators will aim to answer this question of trust as they pick through the inner-workings of the biggest tech companies with a fine-toothed comb. In the coming months, Congress will take a close look at the biggest tech companies to understand whether antitrust laws need to be updated to meet our needs in a digital era.
Investigators are on their way
When lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that it’s time to take a serious look into big tech, and Apple’s CEO says companies need to take responsibility for the “chaos factory” they’ve created, it’s hard to argue whether or not some problems exist.
What would regulation around big tech look like?
Big tech knows that more regulation is coming. But regulators aren’t just facing the question of whether or not to break up big tech companies. They must also determine whether current laws are appropriate for the antitrust concerns we face today.
Here are a few ideas lawmakers have to address data privacy and other concerns facing big tech companies:
- Establish a National Commission on Technology and Democracy to monitor privacy and security concerns, and give regulators the data they need to make changes
- Require certain platforms (i.e. those with extremely high revenue) to be designated as “platform utilities”, which would prevent them from selling user data
- Make big tech companies share data with smaller companies, in order to foster competition and give others a chance to succeed
But by no means is this a one-sided discussion
Some lawmakers have proposed a few ideas to address data privacy and other concerns facing big tech companies. Find out what they’re suggesting by reading our full article.
While we’re living the Great American Dream of having “free” access to music, email providers, social media platforms, and more… we’re finding out those things aren’t free after all. They come with a price tag labeled “your personal data” and complex risks that some people feel lawmakers simply don’t understand, and never will. Which could make lawmakers terrible at deciding what’s fair and what’s not. Instead, tech companies are trying to better regulate themselves (such as Apple building better privacy into their own products) in order to ward off the regulatory urges of some lawmakers.
Perhaps it’s time for Wisconsin’s tech hubs to shine?
While regulators decide whether big tech companies are too powerful, tech hubs in small cities are gaining ground on Silicon Valley. It looks like middle-America is becoming a tech powerhouse itself, given that anyone looking for affordable tech hubs is likely to find one in the Midwest.
Madison, Wisconsin has recently solidified itself as one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the nation. From a Packers-backed tech hub in Green Bay to Gener8tor, the Milwaukee-based startup accelerator, tech stories coming out of Wisconsin are changing the industry as we know it.
Why is a middle-America tech sector important for local communities?
While it may not seem like a tech hub in Madison matters much to your Paycheck, there’s a much larger domino effect than you might realize. A booming middle-American tech sector can:
- Shrink the wage gap between urban coastal cities and smaller heartland cities
- Help solve Wisconsin’s brain drain by bringing younger, educated workers into the state
- Boost local business profitability which returns more tax revenue to the city/state
More tech hubs bring more government funding into the state, and that means more resources to boost local wages and create more jobs.
The Aspen Institute said it best in their brief on Rural Development Hubs: “Hubs intentionally weave a system and strengthen its critical components – the people side, the business side, the local institutions and partnerships, and a region’s range of natural, built, cultural, social and financial resources – so that it advances (rather than impedes) enduring equity, health and prosperity for all within a region.”