What is data monopoly and should we care? With every technology, there is good and bad
Whether we notice it or not, data is becoming a more important and familiar part of our lives. Several pieces of technology that people interact with on a daily basis are constantly collecting and using data about their users. For example, the collection of healthcare data to better understand and predict patients’ medical needs, or the GPS software we use to find the fastest route to a destination.
A less obvious use of data is on platform economies, or online services that provide economic or social activities. From ordering a product from Amazon to commenting on a friend’s Instagram post, our digital footprint leaves behind the increasingly sought-after resource of personal data.
In turn, the data is used by computer programs to learn about trends, habits, and preferences of the consumers to better educate efforts in advertising and product design. Collecting data could seem like an overall positive to the company, while being relatively unobtrusive to the consumer.
But there are concrete reasons why big data is harmful. The result of massive corporations amassing tons of data can end up creating what are described as “data monopolies,” causing harm to the customers as well as business competition.
For example, the damage done by data breaches is only amplified for larger amounts of information. It can also be misused, demonstrated through the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2016 when personal data of Facebook users was used discretely for political advertising.
The term “monopoly” applies to the advantages that big data gives large businesses over smaller ones. While data is inherently valueless and can be collected by any company, data monopolies can react to consumer trends and patterns more quickly and accurately than their smaller counterparts. This can create a higher barrier of entry for other tech companies, reducing competition.
Overall, the topic of data monopolies is one that tech companies and the government is increasingly becoming aware of. The digital resource that can make our world more efficient has its drawbacks which are going to have to be addressed in the near future.
Shion Britten is a senior at Southridge High School and enjoys playing the trumpet, baseball & hiking.