Four ways to break up Big Tech

Big tech.
Big tech.

Four ways to break up Big Tech

The current appetite for regulating the technology sector is a notable departure from past years.
August 21, 2019

An ongoing federal investigation is not the only thing putting pressure on large tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. A group of state attorneys general and Congress are just the latest to want to examine whether these companies have become too big and powerful, and a new analysis in The New York Times suggests four ways that policy makers could promote more competition at the highest levels of tech. 

The most obvious approach might be to simply split up the companies to limit the ways that they stifle competition. This could mean that Google gets to keep its search engine, but has to surrender the proprietary shopping services that appear in it. Amazon might retain control of its marketplace, but perhaps it could no longer sell its own branded items. Splitting up the companies would be difficult, but the federal government has done it before, like when it targeted AT&T in the 1980s in a similar way, resulting in the company shedding multiple assets. Another approach identified by the Times would be for the government to focus on potential breakups rather than implementing more broad guidelines that would affect the sector at large.

Another possibility would be the establishment of a dedicated government watchdog. This already exists in a broad range of industries like banking, aviation, and drugs. Could tech be next? Not necessarily, because there is one more idea on how to disrupt tech monopolies: unlocking the data. These companies thrive not only because of the services they provide, but also the information they collect on the people who use them. A new rule that requires companies to sell that user data to other countries could help smaller companies compete. 

In today’s political environment, it is hard enough to get Congress and President Donald Trump to get much done on hot-button issues, but the current appetite for regulating the technology sector is a notable departure from past years, when the companies were seen as economic engines that were best left undisturbed.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.