SXSW 2019: Politics and your personal data
How the upcoming presidential elections could affect Google, Amazon, Facebook and your personal data
After many years of encouraging others to go, this is my first trip to SXSW. The sheer breadth of session options, reinforced by serious FOMO, were really intimidating. But what came to the surface for me, at least on Saturday, was the opportunity to see three US presidential candidates for the 2020 election. All in the span of five hours.
All three are great speakers and not surprisingly, all three lamented the current state of US affairs, although the word ‘Trump’ was only offered a handful of times over the three hours.
These three candidates, despite being from three different parties and ideologies, shared similar sentiments:
- That Americans have more in common than they have differences
- That special interest groups have rigged the system; Kasich blamed weak politicians
- That each of them have the right and opportunity to define their versions of a more moderate Republican, a centrist Independent and a progressive Democrat
Anyone of them could be the next President of the USA, but what does it mean to our business - to marketers and brand builders?
Well, the platform of one candidate, Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, will have a significant impact. She has pledged to break up Google, Amazon and Facebook. She believes that their monopolistic access to data creates an uneven playing field that is detrimental to American workers, families and small businesses. Warren also believes, and she certainly isn’t the only one, that centralized social media empowers massive corporations (and governments) to steal our privacy and restrict our free speech.
In her session at SXSW, she compared it to the power of the railroads from the 19th Century, wherein they controlled access to commerce as they crisscrossed America. We can only speculate on the downstream impact of these breakups, and there are both positive and negative implications for all of us.
I believe there will be an international debate in the next few months & years about the legality around corporations selling our personal data without our permission nor our knowledge.
Breakups may also result in neutral technical standards and protocols for blogs, emails and the web which would enable us to follow public feeds no matter where they are published – people would choose on their own terms, not Facebook’s or Twitter’s, for both reading and publishing.
The break-up of these massive corporations would also create opportunities for entrepreneurial businesses that would otherwise falter against these giants.
On the other side of the coin, these corporations – Google, Facebook & Amazon, have established and entrenched their business models into our day-to-day lives. Consumers and businesses depend on these corporations for their livelihood.
The sense I get walking around SXSW is that some sort of break-up is inevitable.