Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Antitrust action is desperately needed to change the practices of big tech companies, especially when it comes to privacy, Google’s former advertising chief said Tuesday.
News management: Competition in technology is necessary to ensure that people can have private online experiences because big companies like Google will never really care about user privacy, Sridhar Ramaswamy told Axios in an interview in Toronto at Collision Conference.
- Ramaswamy spent 15 years running Google’s lucrative advertising business before launching Neeva, a subscription-based search engine.
Why it matters: Regulators around the world have put increasing pressure on the biggest tech companies for anti-competitive practices.
- Ramaswamy is betting on a future where smaller, privacy-focused platforms will have a chance to compete with companies like Google.
What they say: “Big tech would love nothing more than to portray themselves as the saviors of our country, the defenders of democracy, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Ramaswamy said.
- Ramaswamy pointed to the ongoing US Justice Department case against Google as a promising development for other browsers seeking to reach customers on their smartphones without tracking them online: “It will unleash competition. They are not interested in privacy because their business is built on mass collection and use of information.”
- “Imagine one company responsible for supplying water for the entire planet…a commercial company. Finding and accessing information is basic, and you have one company responsible for that.”
Reality check: It will take years, even decades, for regulators and companies to catch up with laws that protect consumer data and practices that put user privacy first.
- Efforts to pass a comprehensive data privacy law in the US are making slow progress but face an uphill battle.
Meanwhile, “People can arm themselves with digital privacy literacy,” Brittany Kaiser, a whistleblower in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal who now runs a foundation called Own Your Data, said in the same interview at the Collision conference.
- “Education and awareness is how we go after the generational change,” she said. “Instead of teaching kids how to use technology, we’re teaching them how technology works,” and how to use privacy-focused tools.