How can we tame the tech giants now that they control society’s infrastructure?

This morning’s Observer column

Pardon me for a moment while I shed a few crocodile tears. The proximate cause of this grief is the news that the revenues of Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are down by an estimated $9.85bn in the second half of this year. Just to put that in context, as I write, the stock market valuations of the first three of these behemoths are $86.9bn, $930.36bn and $44.07bn respectively. YouTube is harder to estimate because it’s part of Alphabet, its holding company, but since that’s valued at $1.93tn (that’s trillion, by the way) we may safely assume that YouTube’s revenue decline was, as engineers say, “in the noise”.

And yet all these outfits were complaining loudly at the injustice that had been done to them by one of their peers – Apple. Why so? Well, back in April, the iPhone manufacturer introduced its grandly named app-tracking transparency policy via a tweak to its mobile operating system, which forced iPhone apps to ask for permission before they tracked the behaviour of users to serve them personalised ads.

Predictably, most users declined to be tracked, which meant that those who had hoped to target them were left floundering. ..

Do read the whole thing