Over the past decade or so, our society has become so rapidly dependent upon technologies – and the Big Tech companies who produce them – that we haven’t even really had a chance to pause, catch our breath, and think about the consequences.
It seems we’re having a bit of big-tech whiplash, as over the past few years concerns and scandals over issues like the privacy of our personal information and how tech is affecting everything from our mental health to our elections have led to a rise in anti-tech sentiment, more tech companies facing lawsuits, and more strident demand for accountability and transparency.
The Verge recently posted the results of their 2020 survey, which mostly collects opinions on how people feel about and use the products of big-name tech companies, as well as how these brands compare to one another.
The results show that most people don’t paint all of Big Tech with the same brush.
There are the brands we love, the brands we’re starting to hate, and the brands we love to hate. Generally speaking, Amazon, Google, YouTube, Netflix, and Microsoft are much beloved by Americans, whereas Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are met with more skepticism.
One key factor in how we feel about tech companies is whether or not we trust them with our personal information.
According to the survey, Microsoft is the number one most trusted brand, closely followed by Amazon. Only 41 percent of respondents said that they trusted Facebook with their personal information, which makes sense, given privacy violating scandals like the Cambridge Analytica debacle. Amongst those surveyed who do not use Facebook, a lack of trust around privacy issues was the number one sited reason for eschewing the social networking platform.
How do people think that Big Tech companies affect society?
That depends on the company. The majority of respondents feel that Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and YouTube have a positive impact on society. Interestingly, despite their widespread use and seeming popularity, more people think that Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have an overall negative impact.
Survey respondents tended to feel that large companies should be prevented from monopolizing too much of the economy, with 72 percent of respondents saying that Facebook has “too much power,” and more than half agreeing that the government should break up such monopolies and that Google and YouTube should be split into separate companies.
Interestingly, however, respondents seemed less-than-informed about which companies are actually in bed with one another, with less than half of respondents aware that Google owns YouTube and that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. It would be interesting to see if peoples’ feelings towards these large monopolies would change if they were more aware of which companies own whom.
Despite our supposed dependence on these tech companies, a lot of people say they wouldn’t necessarily miss them if they were gone. Respondent would be sad to lose Google, Amazon, YouTube, Microsoft, Netflix, and Apple. However, only 55 percent said they would miss Facebook if it disappeared, and even more would be perfectly content living without Instagram and Twitter.