Executives from 13 tech companies, including DuckDuckGo, Mozilla, Proton, and Brave, call congressional leaders to pass the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO). The bill would allow the government to address unfair competition practices and online privacy concerns.
Tech monopolies and dominating companies like Google, Meta, and Amazon have the power and online presence to push their own products and services above all others. As a result, competitors have fewer chances to reach the audience with their privacy-oriented alternatives. If the new bill passes Congress, it will address the anti-competitive behavior and fund antitrust regulators to enforce reform.
Tech Monopolies and Data Collection
The tech industry collects data that helps them influence users to use their services. The more data they gather and analyze, the greater their grip is and the competition shrinks. New and old users feel as if there’s no alternative to things like Gmail, Amazon, Instagram, and other online services, so they accept the lack of online privacy in exchange for what they need. In the letter addressed to the congressional leadership, the representatives of the 13 companies say:
These monopolist firms: use manipulative design tactics to steer individuals away from rival services; restrict the ability of competitors to interoperate on the platform; use non-public data to benefit their services or products; and make it impossible or complicated for users to change their default settings or uninstall apps. Such tactics deprive consumers of the innovative offerings an open and vibrant market would yield.
The grip that some tech companies hold on our online experience is obvious. For example, many devices you buy come with certain services and products pre-installed. They already limit your choice by not giving you one in the first place and alternative options become harder to find.
If the American Innovation and Choice Online Act passes, you and millions of other users will experience less manipulation and targeting from the tech giants. Also, the competition would gain a fair chance to push their alternative product and offer privacy-oriented solutions. It won’t fully protect your data and digital identity, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The Vote for AICO Delayed
The congressional vote for AICO was supposed to take place this summer, but it was delayed due to other priorities. Senate majority leader Charles Schummer stated through his spokesperson that he supports the bill and he will put it up for a vote during the fall.
The repeated delays pushed the smaller tech companies to express their concerns through a letter addressed to Congress. Nonetheless, as of September 2022, Congress still doesn’t have a set date to vote for the bill.
A report from the Washington Post explains why the vote may have been delayed so far. While the support for the AICO bill is rising, there’s a thin majority that would vote “yes.” Some senators are still reviewing the bill while others are still on the fence. The only way for the reform to pass is with 100% support from the democrats or a mix of votes from both parties.
Tech companies are concerned about the delays because of the midterm elections taking place in November 2022. The AICO supporters may end up a minority by the end of the election. So right now, your only option is to seek data privacy on your own and take matters into your own hands.
Take Privacy into Your Own Hands
Tech giants may push their services and products aggressively, but you always have a choice. Sure, removing the apps that come with your device can be a pain, but using privacy-oriented alternatives is definitely worth your time. Here are a few things you can do.
- Use a secure browser. Google Chrome is the default browser for many, but it’s a data collection monster that you can easily replace. Uninstall it and try private browsers like Brave, Firefox, or even TOR.
- Use an alternative search engine. Google isn’t the only player on the market, but it has a near monopoly over online searches. If you don’t need some of its features professionally, you can try alternatives like DuckDuckGo, Startpage, and Qwant.
- Giving up Google isn’t easy. If you can’t do that, make sure you at least delete your search history and stop sharing your data with Google as much as possible.
- Reduce your social media consumption. Social media giants like Meta and TikTok take massive amounts of data from you. In fact, TikTok even has the capability to record your keystrokes if it wants to. So quit social media as much as you can.
That said, the best thing you can do for your privacy in addition to the above steps is to use a reliable VPN.
Use CyberGhost VPN to route your connection through a protected network on all your devices. It will help you protect your real identity by hiding your IP and it will encrypt all your data to make it inaccessible to anyone who tries to intercept your traffic. VPNs are one of the few things that shield you against data-hungry companies.