tech

Online privacy and profit clash with fortunes at stake

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By Glenn CHAPMAN

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-There is huge concern by people and government officials regarding how cookies are being used.

This is not really true. Governments are using the issue for leverage over GAFA to force them to comply with their desire to control them and, by proxy, the internet. Privacy activists care and fill forums with their concerns - it's their thing. 99% of ordinary users simply don't care. It's a non-issue being inflated for political reasons.

It's very easy for GAFA to switch to a permissive system where people get to choose the aspirational lifestyle-orientated ads and viral content that they want to see, allowing those who don't want any, preferring a 'plain vanilla' experience, to opt out. They would lose nothing by doing this, and gain much.

They haven't done it because they operate in a bubble, locking out any idea that doesn't come from within. As a result, the big tech companies have become lawyer-led, defensive, and have developed inertia to the innovative spirit that created them. Their response has not been to develop the next generation of their products, but to deploy lobbyists, undermine criticism and protect the status quo at all costs.

This happens in large US corporates all the time. It is a signature problem for them. GAFA were born out of innovation, but get dumber as their creative talent ages and new hires wedge themselves into the corporate comfort zone.

The solution is to pass more control over to the user via distributed systems. By avoiding contact with user data, they would then avoid being used as pan-national censors by governments, forcing them to police every piece of content on their service.

They could have begun switching to this alternative topology years ago, but monolithic corporates are allergic to change. The opportunity for alternatives to replace them is there, becoming GAFA 2.0, with distributed services, distributed networking and distributed digital currency wallets.

GAFA's failure to develop is limiting tech innovation, but the next generation of tech services will come eventually, courtesy of start-ups, if GAFA themselves do not change.

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