back to article To stop web giants abusing privacy, they must be prevented from respawning. Ever

Thriving amidst the pervasive chaos of 2020, the world’s largest technology companies - the FAANGs*, as we’ve come to know them - have managed to grow larger, richer and more powerful. That’s wonderful for shareholders, but quite a problem when it comes to the relations between these new superpowers and the nations they …

  1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I've seen the movie just few days ago

    Cannot recommend it highly enough.

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

      It was fucking awful. Got about 20mins in and we had to turn off. They over did it with the dramatics. If those people worked there and thought it was so bad, they never gave any of the money back.

      I hate Facebook and don't use it. And that is the simple way to kill it. If everyone stopped using it, the company would tank.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

        They need the dramatics to get the normies to watch it. Just grin and bear it, it's for a good cause.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

        "I hate Facebook and don't use it."

        Same here.

        Unfortunately, we've been pretty ineffective in either impacting FB, or in convincing others to join our noble cause.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

          It's not so bad. People, particularly young people, are avoiding Facebook in droves. Without some way to recruit a new generation, they'll be doomed.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

            Is it? I'll believe it when they're desperate to work, told they use WhatsApp for messages, and opt to starve instead...

          2. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

            the problem is they migrated to Insta, that Facebook bought

      3. Spanners Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

        I hate Facebook and don't use it.

        And I don't use Apple, I don't think either of us is persuading anyone.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

          I hate and shun Facebook, Twitter etc but love and use Apple. Maybe that's the problem - you accept the risk and you rationalise they harm of their tax practices. There's only so far one will put oneself out for a principle. They aren't absolute.

          1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

            Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

            Well it will be all ok after Brexshit.

            We will have got our country back and can use our enormous global influence to tell FB and the rest to fuck off.

            Oh, wait a minute. Have I got that right...?

            1. Ken 16 Silver badge

              Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

              Spot on. They need you more than you need them. Unless they've contributed to party campaign funds.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

            "you accept the risk and you rationalise they harm of their tax practices."

            The tax stitchups are the domain of politicians, not firms such as Apple. Apple can't not take advantage of schemes to keep their tax burden as low as possible by US law. Doing otherwise would be damaging to stockholders and land the execs in court.

            Sweeping changes would have many unintended consequences, but it's still something that should be pursued in the way you'd eat an elephant. It's not just tax regulations that come into play. Big business take taxes into account, but there are all sorts of other factors to how they decide where to build a factory or business office. Apple has their products made mainly in China because the component parts aren't made in the US anymore. It's an advantage to be close to your suppliers in space and language. Read Andrew Liveris' "Make it in America" for a great look at the topic.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

        "If everyone stopped using it, the company would tank."

        Maybe not. Their primary revenue stream is PII sales and they have one of the biggest repositories of that. They would have to radically change how they get that info, but they have a huge head start. They also done a good job on brainwashing the unwashed masses to feel they "have to have a FB account" to get anywhere. Google has turned into a verb and people buy iPhone because when the media talks about mobile phones and the story isn't explicitly about Android, it's an "iPhone".

        One of the things that the top marketing wonks have done is leverage the power of the internet to get people to believe they "have" to do something or they'll be ridiculed. They also have taken lessons from paper copies being called a "Xerox" and spreadsheets always referred to as "Excel spreadsheet".

        Not enough people are taught to be cynical about things and stop and think rather than being spoon fed from main stream media. Professional journalism has died and been replaced with the low signal to noise ratio of Twitter at a time when it would be useful to have good people distilling down what's relevant and/or interesting into something more manageable. I dropped Twitter years ago. It wasted far too much time I could waste here.

        1. Mike 137 Silver badge

          "stop and think"

          Stopping and thinking has not been part of our education systems (except for a very privileged few) for the entire history of compulsory education. In fact, the training provided has been in receiving and regurgitating stuff pumped in, expressly without thinking. Independent thought loses you marks at school, at college and in the work place. The outcome is therefore not surprising, as the entire consumption-driven economy of the "developed world" relies on us not stopping and thinking. FB et al are just extreme examples of the resultant exploitation.

        2. osakajin Bronze badge

          Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

          And I heartily recommend dropping all media as well. You don't need the News. You really don't.

        3. Dinsdale247

          Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

          It's not just the media. The world has learned that a word only means what they need it to mean to for as long as necessary. The trick they use is to co-opt a word for long enough to get people to nod their heads, then they change words to keep people on their heals.

          "Professional journalism has died and been replaced with the low signal to noise ratio of Twitter..." God I wish the problem was confined to twitter, then I could just ignore the twits. But this is how ALL journalism works now.

      5. The obvious

        Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

        Shunning Facebook is easy, just wallop their ASN at the firewall. Easy-peasy, job done, pub o’clock.

        Try it with google... it is impossible to use the web in any meaningful way without giving them some amount of data.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: I've seen the movie just few days ago

          "Shunning Facebook is easy..."

          Not so easy when most of your family and/or friends communicate by Messenger, and they're damn hard to ignore (as in "drop off" and you get visits by the cops wondering if someone shot you or your house is on fire).

  2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The

    politicians can bang and complain all they like, in the end it wont make a scrap of difference because they're the ones who decide how much tax farcebork et al have to pay and how much state aid the likes of farcebork get from national governments.

    Force them to incorperate in each nation, then force them to declare how much money they trade and how much profit they make and tax them accordingly (with the stick in the background of a tax per trade system if they try any shifty IP purchasing stuff to try and reduce local profit)

    But then it wont happen anyway because the local politicians have farcebork accounts and farcebork knows exactly where they were on the evening of sept 1st ....

    Politician: I'm going to pass laws to make you accountable

    Farcebork: We have all the data on you including your little side trips to Putney, it would be a shame if anything.......... happened to it.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The

      But what if the politician replies, "I'm already dying; anyway, I'm retiring end of the year, so publish and be damned!"?

      1. Danny Boyd

        Re: The

        Well, if majority of politicians are dying or retiring the end of this year, it might work.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The

          @"Well, if majority of politicians are dying or retiring the end of this year, it might work."

          This atleast is something worth looking forward to, the current "Donny is doing something against bigcorps" legal soap opera isn't going anywhere .

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The

      "Force them to incorperate in each nation,"

      That's the problem, the local politicians only have local control. Force incorporation and taxation locally and the FAANGs move operations elsewhere. That makes tougher rules both ineffective at controlling FAANGs and detremental to the local economy.

      If there were a Global Manipulative Corporation Treaty that coordinated rules among the biggest economies, that might work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The

        Wouldn't you think there would be a way to force local jurisdiction as a basic condition of being able to interact with the citizens? As in it takes a citizen to do business with a citizen and so on?

        1. eionmac

          Re: The

          Think P R China and Russian federation. They do this.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    a series of food and drug laws in the United States

    And created giant pharma companies that are the only ones that can afford to jump through hoops to get a drug to market

    So we create a requirement that any company using the internet needs 1000 lawyers and 10,000 compliance people to meet the new laws.

    Any web site needs a multi-site double blind trial before approval

    1. davenewman

      Re: a series of food and drug laws in the United States

      The food laws worked. They no longer adulterate flour with alum and other white substances.

      The drug laws worked until Congress voted to make it illegal to buy generics at a lower price. In the rest of the world, governments invite tenders from drug suppliers, achieving discounts for quantity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a series of food and drug laws in the United States

        "The drug laws worked until Congress voted to make it illegal to buy generics at a lower price."

        Congresscritters are human too, they too have expenses, and the Pharma Industry can be generous to its friends.

        1. Lyndon Hills 1

          Re: a series of food and drug laws in the United States

          just as we wouldn’t prescribe addictive drugs to billions of people

          Also see prescription painkillers, especially in the US....

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: a series of food and drug laws in the United States

      Hyperbole much?

  4. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
    FAIL

    Not going to happen

    Unlike governments firms like Google do provide a service (or multiple services). Imagine trying to search for something on the Web if Google, Bing etc were all banned. The author of this article obviously dislikes the big internet firms - however most of the public has no problem with them. The comparison with the opium trade is not very accurate - Google etc do not poison anyone. As the big companies have a lot of hooks into politicians (eg by campaign donations), the chance of any laws being passed that do them serious harm is minimal.

    (Where is a government equivalent of Google Maps, Google Earth, Android, YouTube, Netflix, Google Search ??? )

    1. A. Coatsworth

      Re: Not going to happen

      At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I'd argue that they (and in particular Facebook and Twitter) do poison the people.

      The radicalization of ideas that occur within their echo chambers is frightening. The mere fact that people can keep repeating well known lies as if they were truths, and reaching new gullible audiences, is poison for the mind and for the society.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Not going to happen

        "The mere fact that people can keep repeating well known lies as if they were truths.. ...."

        That was happening well before the likes of FB et al, I suspect that particular aspect of population manipulation goes back centuries.

        Not to say that dismantling much of the current social media wouldn't be beneficial for the world.

        The biggest dangers of modern social media is the speed of the propogation of new lies or memes.

        1. skeptical i

          Re: Not going to happen

          This article in _Wired_ -- https://www.wired.com/story/youtube-algorithm-silence-conspiracy-theories/ -- puts some of the blame at YouTube's feet, with their target fixation on one billion viewed hours per day perhaps eroding judgement on just what is getting pumped at viewers to keep their eyeballs from wandering.

          1. The obvious

            Re: Not going to happen

            I’d definitely argue that google are far worse than fb or Twitter. Unlike the others they only affect their members, the googly-eye is all-seeing irrespective of if you consume their services directly or not.

          2. Robert Grant Silver badge

            Re: Not going to happen

            It's not getting pumped at people. People are choosing to watch. Every time we talk or write as though this isn't all completely optional, including in this very article, it harms our ability to realise we can just turn it all off.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Not going to happen

      Ordinance Survey maps in the UK. You got me on the rest, though.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Not going to happen

        OS has rolled back a bit on the monetisation of its product. You can now get an online map usable for a walk in the country without paying again (well... I don't think they get funded any part by HMG anymore though they once did, correct me if I'm wrong) But they do charge AND sub-contract out to partner organisations for many mapping services. And they do collect user data. So they're not 100% government but do still have that ethos about not turning their users (citizens) into product.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Not going to happen

          OS make maps. Google Maps aren't maps, they're..... dunno, diagrams, but certainly not maps.

      2. sitta_europea

        Re: Not going to happen

        "Ordinance Survey maps in the UK. You got me on the rest, though."

        And I've got you on that one.

        The word is 'ordnance'. Look up its meaning, then come back and tell me how good it is for us all.

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Not going to happen

      "Where is a government equivalent of Google Maps,..."

      Where is the Google equivalent of a free primary school?

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Not going to happen (free primary school)

        I'd say that would be Google itself.

        Everyone with a smartphone has the sum total of the worlds knowledge at their fingertips.

        My parents bought an encyclopedia set when I was a teen, and it weighed ~50lbs. I can now carry that same information in my shirt pocket.

        If, and I'm not endorsing them, Khan Academy can make individualized computer-based learning work in a classroom setting, why can't it be used in leiu of classrooms.

        1. osakajin Bronze badge

          Re: Not going to happen (free primary school)

          Because learning needs a social context.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Not going to happen (free primary school)

            Ooh. I just got a chill when I thought of the social context of a FAANG sourced education. Urgh. Mind bleach required.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Not going to happen

      Imagine trying to search for something on the Web if Google, Bing etc were all banned

      AltaVista.com still resolves!

      Google etc do not poison anyone.

      Apart from their minds. In case you forgot someone shot up a pizza restaurant a while back because of the amount of constant unmitigated bullshit piped into Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and fake news websites, and we've got QAnon now.

      Where is a government equivalent of Google Maps, Google Earth, Android, YouTube, Netflix, Google Search ???

      Ordinance Survey, the entire phone system, iPlayer, Yell (nee Yellow Pages)? Your point is lost on me, unless it's the usual gubmint bad, private company good mantra.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not going to happen

        And YOUR point is lost on me (and a lot of other people) as I have no idea what you're talking about. Some people don't even understand the word "Internet."

        1. jason_derp Bronze badge
          Meh

          Re: Not going to happen

          "And YOUR point is lost on me (and a lot of other people) as I have no idea what you're talking about."

          How...how did you get here to comment then?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not going to happen

            forums.theregister.com, IINM. Point is, what is all that stuff like the Ordnance Survey you talk about? It's not like I can look up Rand McNally anymore.

    5. Filippo

      Re: Not going to happen

      The problem is not with the service, the problem is with the profiling, and the noxious feedback loop it's used for. None of those services require profiling to provide their useful functionality. Rather, their useful functionality is just used as a hook to implement profiling.

      But, technically, you could easily have all of them with no profiling at all. Google would have to make its money some other way, of course, and I'd gladly pay for a subscription or something like that if it meant that masses of people around me are no longer deliberately fed whatever will cause them to make one more click, even if it's inflammatory drivel that wastes their time at best, and validates sociopathic traits at worst.

      Obviously, it wouldn't make *as much* money as it does now, but although a fair society does owe companies a fair shot, it by no means owes them to just let them make as money as they possibly can, to the detriment of society itself.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Not going to happen

        "But, technically, you could easily have all of them with no profiling at all. Google would have to make its money some other way, of course, and I'd gladly pay for a subscription or something like that if it meant that masses of people around me are no longer deliberately fed whatever will cause them to make one more click, even if it's inflammatory drivel that wastes their time at best, and validates sociopathic traits at worst."

        Problem is, you are decidedly in the minority, and everyone around can easily take you with them, kicking and screaming if they must. You're basically up against the human condition.

    6. Ken 16 Silver badge

      Re: Not going to happen

      Imagine? What do you think we did before 1999?

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not going to happen

      I suspect the answer might partially lie in making the perception of programming for Google about as desirable as taste testing at Benson & Hedges is nowadays.

  5. Detective Emil
    Devil

    Autoplay

    Ick. And many services that use it don't provide a way to turn it off.

    1. FlippingGerman

      Re: Autoplay

      Sometimes disabling JS works, but that can also stop websites from working altogether, and this is hard to do on a mobile browser. Reuters is rather ruined for me, they have a pretty decent news service but their website is so full of horrible moving things.

  6. genghis_uk Bronze badge

    I am as anti the social-media addiction as anyone else but I do feel there is a bit of 'Reefer Madness' in the Netflix documentary. Shock / horror sells I suppose.

    Taking a kid from normal teen to protestor to convict in a few weeks is excessive to say the least - even the Q-crazies generally take a bit more than that.

    Regulating against FATANG (you really need Twitter in there too) will do little good as you are trying to implement laws in place of education. This is nanny state, 'for your own good' regulation that never sits well. The article paints online services in the same light as tobacco and it is very likely true that they actively increase the addictive qualities to keep people glued to their screens but regulation will do little to stop that. We really need the media to do some real journalism and stop their disproportionate inflation of Tweet storms and Facebook posts - 100 Tweets on a subject and it is all over the mainstream media websites! The 24hr media needs to be fed with something... We need parents to actually, err, parent. We need people to acknowledge and restrict their online use - a lot of 'celebs' are advocating that we turn off data at the weekends... Regulate the current Dirty 6 and something will replace it - the next wave will have to include TikTok and probably a handful of up and comers that we (oldies) have not seen yet.

    As for taxes, the unfortunate truth is that they all pay exactly what they owe. Global companies have long enjoyed the benefit of moving cash around to their advantage, this is nothing new. The big Tech companies have just become immensely rich very quickly by doing the same as everyone else - but better. Creating a Digital Tax is really admitting that globally, tax laws have not kept up with development in the last 20years or so. It sounds good on paper but there will be little real movement as the same tax loopholes apply to most multi-nationals - who pays the politicians? We need real tax reform, a simplification and reset of the rules but that will not happen as too many political contacts rely on the loopholes.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Shock and horror might sell, but sometimes is the only way that people have attuned themselves to pay attention. After all, the article mentions cigarettes yet people were still suing the tobacco industry under the guise that, in the turn of the century, "They didn't tell me!!". Really? Even my own father quit in the 60's because he knew, and you're telling me, almost 50 years later, that you didn't?

      You're passing the buck.

      So shock and horror is, sometimes, the only way to get through to these morons. Rational discussion doesn't seem to work on them.

      1. genghis_uk Bronze badge

        ++1 Absolutely agree. In fairness, I saw the documentary and thought 'what the hell' but still recommended it to several non-tech friends as I know that it is more likely to get through than my reasoned comments.

        If it works then it is probably a good thing...

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "Even my own father quit in the 60's because he knew, and you're telling me, almost 50 years later, that you didn't?"

        But then you also have people who hear that and go, "I don't give a damn! We're all gonna die anyway, and I'm pickin' my poison! Now pass me my cancer sticks!" Thing is, these, "pass me my poison" types seem far more numerous in the online sphere. Have you read this article? I mean, it's like people are willingly going, "I reject your reality and substitute my own!"

    2. FlippingGerman

      Not sure how much the parents have failed in their raising of children - from what I've seen the people believing any old rubbish they read tend to BE the parents, and their parents.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      FATANG, YANG, KIPPERBANG?

    4. Dave559 Bronze badge

      Cthulhu FTAAGN?

      Cthulhu FATANG?

      Suddenly it all makes sense: we were being manipulated by the Great Old Ones all along!

      "Amazon" is clearly a mistranslation of an obscure word in an ancient tongue, difficult for human voices to mutter, whose first syllable is some sort of guttural 'H' sound… There's a reason for those missing explorers, and those blood sacrifices in the pyramid temples…

      You just need to put the hieroglyphs in the right order…

      Cthulhu FHTAGN! Cthulhu FHTAGN!

      1. Evil Scot

        Re: Cthulhu FTAAGN?

        I wondered what the Acronym reminded me of PHANG. Ruddy blood suckers all of them.

    5. veti Silver badge

      If parents knew how to parent better, we wouldn't be here in the first place. There's no point expecting them all, collectively, to raise their game suddenly. If it could happen, seems likely it would have before now.

      So that's no part of a solution, that's just handwringing.

      I think the solution is in taxes. Invent an "attention tax", to kick in whenever someone spends more than, say, 10 hours per week on the same site. (Up to 40 hours if the site charges some minimum amount for access, to allow for online education etc.) You'd reverse the incentive to keep eyeballs at all costs.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        You'll just incentivize them to find a more-liberal country to put down roots (and there WILL be; small countries have low operating expenses, after all) or, at the extreme, lobby to get the government changed, using their social power to help in the process.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Force them to incorperate in each nation, then force them to declare how much money they trade and how much profit they make and tax them accordingly (with the stick in the background of a tax per trade system if they try any shifty IP purchasing stuff to try and reduce local profit)"

    The present system makes it possible for a country with what might be called a natural economy to attract in a few big multinationals with low tax rates which also give local companies the same advantage. As long as the IP stuff is possible that can be used to shift the profit to such countries whether they incorporate in each country or not.

    Countries trying to do impose trading taxes will simply get bullied by the US with sanctions, at least as long at the current incumbent's there. Getting multiple countries to work together would be a problem as the smaller ones trading on this would raise objections as might HMG as a means of trying curry favours from the US.

    In addition trying to devise a system to hit the FAANGS wouldn't be easy - at the very least it would probably generate more hoops for Real Businesses to jump through to escape it whilst trying to handle their imports and exports. From the UK's PoV we're just about to discover how much of that sort of red tape will affect our businesses once our existing EU arrangements end; the last thing they need will be more of the same.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How do they get around stuff like the GDPR, then, that specifically requires action when you merely do business with citizens and include the potentially big stick of being able to attack a company's global turnover, meaning it's tricky to play shell games?

      1. martynhare

        We can already see how

        “Legitimate interests” declarations to make you have to opt out, rather than opt in. - for starters. Then, they make it so you need privacy-invasive services to use the products you buy, sometimes even after you’ve purchased them without those anti-features initially included.

        Oculus is a fantastic example of this, where your device will become semi-useless after 2023 unless you allow Facebook into your life. Or, how about Microsoft Windows, which pools together diagnostic data and advertising data to try and cheat the system, making it hard to define the consent you have or have not given. Then you have Fitbit, where Google will tie in all the data at some point, if they haven’t already.

        Then, you have to see what the company you work for has consented to. Even if your personal data from your own personal accounts isn’t slurped, your same PII will be slurped from corporate data you submit instead.

        GDPR has done bugger all to end spying, it just added abstraction layers.

        1. Mike 137 Silver badge

          "GDPR has done bugger all to end spying..."

          No law works unless it is complied with. Although it's arguably not perfect, the GDPR per se is not the problem. The problem is non-compliance. The Regulation is not policed, so most organisations effectively ignore it after making some token gestures such as publishing an incomprehensible "privacy policy", and the regulators are only interested in "big cases" and data breaches, so the groundswell of abuse across the entire web (and in the offline sphere) goes unchallenged. It thus becomes habitually accepted as a norm, making it even harder to challenge.

  8. The Empress

    And if that doesn't work.

    Well let's test out how robust their bollards and blast shields are.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: And if that doesn't work.

      I'd favour a delivery of cookies to the board room. They'd have to sign their consent to accept the box of cookies of course. Including the consequences of eating them. Mind you they probably have shares in ex-lax.

  9. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4

    Everyone can do something

    The world has to vote with its feet to make a real difference. Every little helps.

    I'm a self-employed web thing, and over the course of this year:

    I moved email & calendar services from GSuite to a small independent provider

    I use Mega for online storage & sync.

    I moved my web analytics from Google to my own Matomo installation

    I keep a Gmail account because I have to use Search Console but always use an incognito browser window

    I moved my code repositories from Github (M$) to a small independent provider

    I deleted my Facebook personal and business pages & FB Messenger

    I deleted my personal Twitter (business one is hanging on by a thread) and got myself on Mastodon

    I deleted my Instagram

    I've never had a Netflix account

    I'm in the process of de-Whatsapp-ing (FB) and de-Skype-ing (M$) and replacing with Signal (this is hard because clients, non-techie family etc)

    I still have LinkedIn (M$) but hardly ever log in and don't use my full surname

    I'm assessing alternatives to AWS for backup storge

    I browse with SRWare Iron (I clear history daily), search with Qwant, and write with LibreOffice

    I've ordered a Linux smartphone (to see if it's practical) and am replacing my Mac with a rather nice Linux laptop

    Seems like a lot of work but I honestly think it's important.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Everyone can do something

      Instead of deleting your FB, G, etc accounts, you should simply have purged them and left them as pointers to when you expect contacts. Otherwise, in 1-3 years, someone else will become you by using the information from (what information isn't available online after the Experian leaks) the net.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Everyone can do something

        That's quite impossible. There's no real way to delete something once it's outside your control on the Internet, as long as there's value in it. Plus, identity theft predates the Internet (dating back to that sneaky friend in the DMV, for example--a lot of what's needed to conduct identity theft is necessarily public knowledge owned by the government).

      2. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4

        Re: Everyone can do something

        I'm really not that important. I don't think anyone would want to become me.

    2. derp1

      Re: Everyone can do something

      this should be higher and have more upvotes.

      what @759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4 is doing keeps the web ecosystem and the competition alive and that have the beneficial effect of making it easier to switch from the big giants products to decent alternatives (since they have funding to develop features / make their stuff secure / offer somehow competitive prices). If the customer have decent alternatives to switch to, big corporations will have an incentive to respect their user privacy instead of data hoarding/data analysing/content spoon feeding their users. it makes the customer becomes precious again.

      will add to the list (some stuff I use anyway):

      rsync.net for backups

      wego.here.com for maps

      librem5 for phone

      fruux for contacts & calendars

      anything but aws/gcp/azure for web hosting

      anything but gmail/outlook for mail

      I do use some the the FAANGs services and I am okay with that. but by doing a conscious effort not to use all their services systematically, the customer may become king again.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Everyone can do something

      You seem to be 'replacing' things that you can just delete all together. Keep in mind that anything that is "in the cloud" is one thin step away from being public. All of my backups are off-line completely. The backroom closet at my mum's has a pair of boxes with backup hard drives all sealed and labeled so if I need them, she can just take them around the post. From time to time when I visit, I update the cache. Any catastrophe that can affect my house and hers is big enough that backup hard drives will be the least of my worries.

      I have a local active SAN backup that is hidden so if somebody breaks in and nicks my computer, I'll still have the backups and can be back up and running quickly. I also have various drives of things backed up that sit on the shelf in the closet.

  10. jdb3

    Wow, that was an... interesting piece. I notice that it is very lacking in details on how we could actually accomplish this. Are governments supposed to have teams continuously watching corporations, inside their networks, to make sure they aren't using those evil 'algorithms'? And, of course, which government? China would be the best example here, in that it makes a point to monitor every social media network, automatically delete everything that it doesn't like, and uses it for it's own purposes instead.

    Furthermore, as has been repeatedly said countless times, once you develop a technology it is extremely hard to stop everyone from using it. Do I think that Facebook is a horrible time suck at best, and malicious to boot? Yes. Do I think that Amazon and Google between them know much more than they should about everyone? Undoubtedly. However, say you get them to delete all history, and somehow manage to keep them from creating more. (Short of shutting them down and destroying all of their data centers and backups, I'm not sure how this could be done, but lets continue.) Tomorrow, Fazgool will be created, which will start doing the exact same thing.

    This is an extremely 'bumper sticker' sort of idea - break them up and stop them from doing it again. In the reality we are in, I expect you could break them up in some fashion, but it will be impossible to stop it from being recreated without the sort of draconian measures that would make the Internet non-usable.

    1. saline_solution

      The price of freedom is eternal vigilance

  11. osakajin Bronze badge

    Problem is both gov and mega corp are shit.

    1. Esme

      Nah, the real problem is an economic system that rewards sociopathic behaviour and thereby puts those who are not sociopathic at a disadvantage. Tinkering with the current system to ameliorate its ills would be a good thing in the short term, but long term, its the system that encourages the bad behaviour in the first place that needs changing.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Is it the system, or simply the human condition that can and will taint any system made by man? I mean, many say this is the least worst system out there, and if that isn't satisfactory, then we as a race are in for a downward spiral.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      @osakajin

      The trouble is the dividing line between government and megacorps is almost invisible now.

      Between lobbying and interdependence via contracts and essential services that gov's now depend on to function, the mega corps have a huge influence on how government works and seemingly a fair amount of say.

  12. mark l 2 Silver badge

    When it comes to Facebook they have got no competition at all really. We have smaller social networking and chat platforms like Snapchat and Tiktok but these are minnows compared to the size of the combined Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp platforms.

    Even Zuckerburg's promise to keep them separate from Facebook has now faded away as Whatsapp is to be rolled into Facebook messenger and Instagram already getting more and more of Facebook and they let you link your Instagram and Facebook accounts to let you login using just one account.

  13. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    "Even Zuckerburg's promise to keep them separate from Facebook has now faded away"

    Zuckerburg's lie that he would keep them separate from Facebook has now been uncovered

    FTFY

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      The "problem" is that users *like* having an integrated service. Imagine going back to the 19th century telephone system where you had to be a subscriber of the same telephone company as the person you wanted to contact, resulting in many people having to have multiple telephones.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "The "problem" is that users *like* having an integrated service."

        The problem is people are lazy and uninterested in privacy or security and wouldn't have a password on their account if it wasn't required.

  14. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Growth

    What's needed is an outright ban on acquisitions. Not left until it's an issue for the unreliable anticompetition authority.

    Let them all grow by subscription only.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Growth

      So what happens to physical assets and so on when a company's forced to wind up?

      1. sitta_europea

        Re: Growth

        "So what happens to physical assets and so on when a company's forced to wind up?"

        Usually, the administrators steal them.

  15. saline_solution

    How to destroy surveillance capitalism

    https://popularresistance.org/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How to destroy surveillance capitalism

      This assumes the companies haven't delved into more psychology and figured out a way to prevent or bypass acclimation, such as triggerint primal survival instincts which may be more resistant to acclimation for risk of a "cry wolf" dilemma where not reacting can be dangerous. Like an extension of not being able to rely on a sewer worker to pick out perfume. Or perhaps they've learned to have a critical mass of followers and figured out the timing involved to "rotate" stimuli among these followers so as to prevent or at least control acclimation.

      1. saline_solution

        Re: How to destroy surveillance capitalism

        Is there any evidence that they have figured out a way to prevent or bypass acclimation?

        Regardless, Doctorow's recommendation that we break up these monopolies would still go a long way toward curbing their power and their anti-competitive business practices.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: How to destroy surveillance capitalism

          Has Facebook gone the way of Zynga yet? Seems they know something, eh?

          As for breaking them up, look at AT&T. It came back even stronger and now owns DirectTV. As the article notes, these new powerhouses have become like Hydras and are savvy enough to acquire some fireproofing.

          1. saline_solution

            Re: How to destroy surveillance capitalism

            Counsel of despair.

            Sure, Facebook knows a lot. It has a lot of power and like any power structure it will resist efforts to curtail its power.

            No one said it would be easy but that's politics for you.

  16. canthinkofagoodname

    If I may nitpick for a moment...

    From the article:

    "even plucky Australia has thrown its hat into the ring, empowering its competition regulator to claw back some of hundreds of billions of dollars a year in revenues hoovered by the pair."

    That's not entirely accurate; the Fed Gov of Australia, through the ACCC's News Media Bargaining Code following the recommendations of the Digital Platform Inquiry (2017), is attempting to level the amount of bargaining power between named Digital Platforms (Google and Facebook for now, but the Treasurer will have the power under the code to declare more Digital Platforms subject to the code) and registered news media businesses (the code lists the thresholds to be met to be eligible for that) for "use of media content",or words to that effect.

    Ack it's not explicitly stated in the article, but the inference I drew from that statement is the Gov is clawing back revenue to the Gov coffers - this is not the case. Should the code pass (highly likely), the money will be going to registered news businesses. The Gov may get a cut of that in tax (operative word being may), but that's it. Important to note that if this were tax related, it would not be within the ACCC's remit to address anyway; that's for the ATO and lawmakers to work through.

    I would also point out there's a fair amount of discontent in Australia at present as related to the media; specifically the Murdoch / Nine-Fairfax oligopoly. And, while I cannot quantify the prevalence of the view, there are those (myself included) who think this measure has less to do with curbing Digital Platforms and more to do with shoring up Murdoch / Nine-Fairfax. Even with politics aside, there is a lot wrong with the code from policy, practical, and technical perspectives.

    See title. I am nitpicking, but I would caution against including the Australian Government's current attempts to regulate Digital Platforms from a competition perspective with the US attempts from an anti-trust perspective. Two very different issues, and very different approaches.

    Just my 2 cents, take it as you will.

    1. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: If I may nitpick for a moment...

      This is really interesting. I think with the David and Goliath thinking that often happens around Google and Facebook, it's good to see some more facts to balance the tribalism.

  17. EnviableOne Silver badge

    FAANG is missng an M & A

    Facebook $757.59 billion Market Cap

    Apple $2.06 trillion Market Cap

    Amazon $1.64 trillion Market Cap

    Alphabet $1.07 trillion Market Cap (Not google anymore)

    Microsoft $1.67 trillion Market Cap

    Netflix $234.09 billion Market Cap

    Netflix is tiny, and seriously under threat from Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, AppleTV+ all who are getting in on the action and restricting the content that they can provide.

  18. naive

    The ball is at the lawmakers

    The emergence of tech is capitalism at its finest, consumers get offered free products which are made such that they are willing to spend a lot of time with them.

    What happened in the last 25 years can only be compared to the period 1875-1955, where someone born in a world of horse based transport could fly in a jet over the Ocean at the age of 80.

    Both are the result of raw and pure capitalism, allowing limitless growth and innovation.

    If we "the people" want to impose limits on the offerings of big tech, we need laws to draw the lines for what is acceptable. Including laws defining that management will be held responsible, not just low ranking techies who get accused to have made mistakes in case of violations.

    Big Tobacco was held in check by outlawing commercials or giving away free cigarettes at music concerts to young people.

    If our law makers want, they can make those laws. Unfortunately they are as addicted as we are to Big Tech, not even mentioning the secretive and cozy yearly conference in Davos where our elected politicians are allowed to dine with the moguls of industry.

    1. saline_solution

      Re: The ball is at the lawmakers

      Absolutely. It is up to governments to legislate and break up these monopolies.

      However, trillion dollar corporations can (and do) buy government policy.

      Therefore, it is up to civil society to force governments to do the right thing.

  19. bigtreeman

    tax income not profits

    For any multinational, tax their income, not their profits.

    Tax the money before it leaves any country.

    Make them fight for their tax returns.

    Close up tax return loopholes worldwide.

    Once it is outside a countries legal reach it's near impossible to get back.

    Every country has a fortune to gain by working together to ensure taxes are paid.

    Low tax countries then can't offer savings.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: tax income not profits

      "For any multinational, tax their income, not their profits."

      Income can be hidden or played against so that their income gets subracted. El Presidente demonstrates a classic case of why income isn't a good measuring stick.

      "Make them fight for their tax returns."

      They "fight" by bribing with figures that make legitimate pursuits look expensive by comparison.

      "Close up tax return loopholes worldwide."

      That means fighting hostile sovereignty, especially those of smaller countries with lower operating expenses.

      "Every country has a fortune to gain by working together to ensure taxes are paid."

      Not necessarily. If even ONE country stands to benefit by cheating, the whole works falls apart.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: tax income not profits

      "For any multinational, tax their income, not their profits."

      Not every company has the same profit margin. Look at somebody like Tesla. Billions in quarterly revenue, but they only clear a profit through selling regulatory credits. How do you tax their revenue if they aren't turning a profit to pay the taxes with? OTOH, a company selling online services with huge margins makes out like a bandit. Pretty soon, all investments will be shunted to the sectors that have the highest profit margins and the money is withdrawn as soon as those companies' margin shrink.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020