The fast rise of Big Tech is caused by multiple factors, such as network effects, the economy moving online and the unprecedented adoption of technology we’re encountering in this global pandemic. However, we believe that the most important factor in their capacity to collect and capitalise on data. To do that Big Tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, have been expanding their products and services into all aspects of the user’s lives. All in the name of accumulating more data.
It’s all about data
The data-driven business models behind Big Tech make them see data as a form of capital, which needs to be accumulated. The better they understand their users the better they can predict behaviour. Google and Facebook especially, make money from these predictions through targeted ads.
Data has become the new form of power. So how did they become so powerful? Did they accumulate so much data?
We did a deep dive into the strategies of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, to map out the ways they have expanded their businesses with the purpose of getting more user data and understanding users better. These strategies range from making bracelets and smartwatches, autonomous cars, smart home devices to, acquiring social platforms and apps on which users create a lot of valuable data. All in the name of data accumulation.
Next, an extract of the products developed and acquisitions made by Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, that can give them more access to user data.
How can they get data?
Alphabet Inc. (Google)
251 products, nine products with over one billion monthly active users.
- Google Street View — Movement data
- Google maps — Movement data
- Gmail — Communication data
- Drive — Communication & workspace data
- G home — Home
- Glasses — Health
- Fiber — Online Behavioural data
- Smart contact Lens — Health
- Android — Behavioural data
- Youtube — Entertainment data
- Grand Central — Communication data
- Meebo — Communication data
- Jetpac — Health and Biometrics
- Urban Engines — Transportation & movement data
- Eyefluence — Health
- Senosis — Health & Pulse data
- Looker — Behavioural data
- Typhoon studio — Entertainment data
- Pointy — Behavioural data
- Waze — Transportation & movement data
- North — Health
- Fitbit — Health
3.3 Billion users of at least one of the company’s core products (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger)
- Facebook — Marketplace Behavioural data
- Messenger — Social & Communication data
- Workplace — Behavioural data
- Portal — Home
- Novi (Libra wallet) — Online Behavioural data
- Instagram — Social & Communication data
- Whatsapp — Communication data
- Oculus — Entertainment data
- Mapillary — Movement
- Beat Games — Entertainment data
- Tbh — Social & Communication data
- Ready at Dawn — Entertainment data
- Dreambit — Health
- Giphy — Social & Communication data
Over 300 million active users across all products and services.
- Amazon Prime Music — Entertainment data
- Amazon Prime Video — Entertainment data
- Kindl — Entertainment data
- Amazon Fire — TV Entertainment data
- Amazon Pharmacy — Health data
- Echo — Home
- Echo Loop (in development) — Health & Pulse
- Ring — Private space data
- Eero — Online Behavioural data
- Twitch — Social & Communication data
- Pillpack — Health data
- Zoox — Movement data
- Alexa — Home
Approximately a billion people are using more than 1.4 billion Apple devices.
- Apple pay — Behavioural data
- Health App — Health data
- Apple watch — Health data
- Apple Music — Entertainment data
- Beddit — Health data
- Shazam — Entertainment data
- Emotient — Facial recognition data
- Drive.ai — Transportation & movement data
- Mobeewave Inc. — Behavioural data
- NextVR — Entertainment data
- Vrvana — Entertainment data
Our summary clearly shows how much access these companies have to personal data. We are not saying that all these acquisitions were made with the sole purpose of data collection. Apple and Amazon, having multiple revenue streams and business models rely less on user data. However, Google and Facebook’s revenue come largely from ads. The way to increase advertising revenue is to get more user attention and predict their behaviour more effectively. For Google and Facebook, it’s all about data.
Portability as Solution
Data Portability is a hot topic since the GDPR. It brings interoperability to the data landscape. Regulations such as the DSA and DMA will increasingly level the playing field of the digital economy. As the silos data currently exist in will be broken down in the name of anti-trust, interoperability and human-centric data infrastructures, Big Tech’s oligopolistic market positions will presumably diminish. Users, as well as policymakers, now understand things have gone too far. We believe user awareness and regulation are initiating a massive change in the market. But we’re still in early days…