Big Tech’s Shining Moment Not So Shiny After All

The novel coronavirus has yielded some obvious changes in our daily life. There is virtually no commute as most people have transitioned to working from home. Parents are now functioning as semi-schoolteachers as they homeschool their kids. Those used to eating out regularly are being forced to explore their own kitchen prowess. Even our online habits are changing.

And while these changes in search habits and web activity are mostly for the better, they also give undue power to tech companies. A recent interview with Kara Swisher, a longtime tech journalist, suggests that the more we rely on big tech in our lives, the more we are contributing to inequality and endangering innocent people.

Amazon, for example, has been a game changer for years. Anything we want or need is delivered to our doorstep almost immediately. But the Amazon warehouses are manned by low-paid workers who were forced to work with limited protection and thus hard hit by the coronavirus.

Similarly, as more employers, families, and social networks rely on conferencing platforms to remain connected, acute privacy issues have come up. Zoom has made it possible for schools, bosses, grandparents, and relatives to have face-to-face interactions while safely practicing social distancing. But repeated security breaches suggest that these systems are not as safe as they should be. 

Facebook has improved its algorithms to avoid the viral spread of misinformation. And yet so much nonsense passes through these filters and penetrates the young and impressionable minds of millions of users a day. Ultimately, Swisher suggests remembering to be critical of any information received via social media. She urges mindfulness in the consumption of goods and services. Understanding where the data, books, appliances, or dresses we seek online comes from gives us a bit more power in the process.