When advocates of antitrust legislation discuss reigning in large technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, or Google, they often do not fully consider the implications more stringent antitrust legislation will have on cybersecurity and the protection of consumer data.
Proposals to break up large technology companies would be profoundly damaging to consumer privacy and cybersecurity as smaller technology companies and startups lack the resource capabilities of making substantial capital investments required to ensure consumer data is protected or deal with the newly emerging cyberthreats associated with new technology devices such as the Internet of Things (IoT).
Every year, Microsoft faces about 7 trillion cyberthreats, many of which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. To combat these cyberattacks, Microsoft invests “over $1 billion to cybersecurity” and recently created a dedicated Cyber Defense Operations Center that is staffed around the clock to ensure its consumer data is protected.
Microsoft is not the only major tech corporation to invest significant amounts into protecting its consumer data. In 2018, Apple reported it would invest $10 billion dollars over the next few years on new U.S. Data Centers that are responsible for ensuring the protection of consumer data. These data centers do not just hold the companies’ sophisticated cybersecurity technology, but also employ those who are responsible for monitoring emerging threats and ensure that the company can provide superior cybersecurity to its consumers.
Outside of this direct investment in cybersecurity and cybersecurity facilities, big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, invested approximately $2.5 billion dollars into supporting cybersecurity companies that develop products which protect everything from login credentials, credit card information and social security numbers.
Without the significant investment large technology companies make in protecting consumer data and deterring cybercrime, consumers would have significantly fewer protections. Some smaller technology companies simply do not have the sources to invest in sophisticated cybersecurity technology, leaving their data vulnerable to cyberattacks and crime. Breaking up the large technology companies would therefore weaken cybersecurity and increase the vulnerability of consumer data.
As communication technology becomes more advanced, significant investment in cybersecurity will also be needed to ensure it is protected. While IoT technology allows the interconnection various internet of computing devices (cameras, smart appliances, and smart home gadgets) and enables them to receive and send to your home computer and smartphone, they could be vulnerable to a number of threats. Mobile Network Mapping is one threat that home networks could face and is where “attackers can create maps of devices connected to a network, identify each device and link it to a specific person.”
To meet these and other cyberthreats, networks and network devices will require significant investment in security that will undoubtedly run into the billions of dollars and require collaboration between industry and government. Given the billions that will be required to protect against online threats, it is clear that currently larger tech companies will have the means to invest and meet the demands for cybersecurity.
The protection of consumer data and cybersecurity is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges the technology industry faces and one that should be of paramount concern to every consumer. Within the realm of cybersecurity and protecting consumer data, it is apparent that limiting the size of technology companies on the false “Big is Bad” assumption could have significant repercussions that would leave consumers worse off and their important information more vulnerable.