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The bosses of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple wield immense power. The four tech giants are sometimes known by the acronym GAFA. Their products and online services have almost global reach.

One of their key assets is “big data” about zillions of people and their preferences. It is said the companies know more about us than do our partners or doctors.

Journalist: “Do you find that scary?”
Philip Fink, Digitalization Expert: “Yes, a little.
Journalist: “Why?”
Philip Fink, Digitalization Expert: “Because we could be sliding into a situation in which we’re no longer sure if our wishes are really our own — or if they only seem to be our own, because these companies might one day be able to present us with products, opinions or information that correspond to our tastes to what we’re looking for at that very moment.”

These firms can play hardball. One example: Google has an online price comparison service. When one does a Google search products and prices, ads appear at the top of the results page. These tend to be the ones its own subsidiary has placed.

Philip Peitsch, IDEALO CEO: “Since the rollout of Google’s price comparison service and the way we’re placed lower down in search results, the generic ones that aren’t paid for, we get less traffic or less than you would expect in a growing market.

People always click on the results at the top of the page.”

In the EU, Google’s price comparison service has to compete fairly with other portals for ad space at the top of results pages. The EU’s Competition Commissioner Margaret Weisner, fined Google 2.4 billion Euros for abusing its market dominance in this area.

Philip Peitsch, IDEALO CEO: “The Commission didn’t say this is what you have to do; all it said was you can’t do that, you have to change it. And so Google responded in a creative manner to its advantage.”

If these giants identify a company as a significant threat, they often undermine it or acquire it. For example, Facebook bought Instagram and Whatsapp.

There are calls for to break the dominance of big data powerhouses.

Philip Fink, Friedrich Ebert Foundation: “One proposal is to anonymize the data, and make them available to other companies, to enable competition.

Journalist: “Is it realistic to think one can curtail the power of these companies?”

Philip Fink, Friedrich Ebert Foundation: “Yes, if there’s the will and an understanding of what needs to be done.”

The firms have so far been subjected to little regulation or pushback from governments, the EU being perhaps a notable exception.

One problem is the speed at which they change and adapt. Another is their popularity: They provide free services to billions of people.

Under these circumstances, it’s easy to overlook the risks.


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1. The most powerful people in the world are presidents and prime ministers. Is this entirely true, mostly true, in the middle, so-so, yes and no, mostly false, entirely false, or it depends?

2. Does GAFA’s greatest power lie in the charisma of their bosses?

3. Who knows us best: our spouses, bosses, doctors, best friends, mothers or “big data”?

4. The experts believe GAFA may try to influence, brainwash and manipulate people. Is this right or wrong?

5. Do the experts consider Google’s ranking fair and objective, or biased, subjective and unfair? Give examples.

6. Have Google and Facebook been left completely free and alone by governments?

7. What has been GAFA’s market strategies and tactics?

8. Is it easy to limit the powers of GAFA?

9. Was this report entirely objective, objective, in the middle, neutral, somewhat subjective or completely subjective? What is the reports attitude towards GAFA (big data)?


A. My friends and I use Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. Yes or no?

B. Are you and your friends concerned (worried) about your privacy and personal information? We are very worried, we are concerned, in the middle, yes and no, so-so, we aren’t that concerned, we are not concerned or worried at all.

C. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Wechat, Huawei have way too much power. What do you think?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What should people and governments do?

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