POSTED 21 May 2019 - 10:03

Should Facebook (and other Big Tech giants) be split up?

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How (if at all) should they be regulated?

Top Response

Naveen Menon, President, ASEAN Cisco

The debate on companies becoming too big and powerful is not a new one. However, I think we are focusing on the wrong question.

For years, we have been comfortable giving up our personal data in exchange for the right to communicate with our friends and family, or access online services...


Toby Koh, Group MD, Ademco Security Group
17 Jun 2019 - 10:54

Facebook with its incredible reach needs to be accountable to its users, shareholders, staff and the general public. As we have seen, the power of the Facebook engine to shape and influence opinion is downright frightening. I do not, however, believe in a forced breakup of the company. Every company will go through its cycles of ups and downs. Facebook will not maintain such dominance forever. In the interim period, governments will attempt to hold the Big Tech firms accountable. Laws and regulations have already been mooted and enacted. The real power of data and communications is just beginning and it is my belief that if not Facebook, it will be others. Ownership of data and the monetisation of data is an irreversible trend and may require regulation to police.

There needs to be concerted efforts and thought in every countries and society on how to keep this beast on a leash.

Melissa Ries, General Manager, Asia Pacific and Japan, TIBCO Software
10 Jun 2019 - 10:24

With the new wave of technology and acceleration of startups across Asia, it is a big task for regulators to manage the rapid growth of such tech startups. Data is the new currency, and regulations and policies can take us only so far. We - as users of such technology - must play a role in ensuring our data is protected. This can prompt tech giants to rethink how they use our data. Transparency is key to this issue, because if we easily understand the terms and there is a consensus with the company, then it gives a fair chance for the user to make the right decision.

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Alban Villani, Regional MD, SEA-Pacific Criteo
3 Jun 2019 - 10:14

Diversity and innovation spring from competition. What we don't need is an Internet where each vertical is controlled by a single e-commerce, search or social media operator. We need an open Internet where all players are free of any conflicts of interest and are able to increase the digital ecosystem's scope and diversity. The open Internet currently commands only 30 per cent of digital ad spend despite capturing half of Internet users. The other half are on Big Tech platforms that control large volumes of data, used in closed markets as a guaranteed source of income. Criteo sees an opportunity to level the playing field by supporting the growth of independent operators and making data sharing available for all. The digital sector needs transparency, with a clear distinction between consumer services and the monetisation of these services on the other.

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Amit Gupta, CEO & Founder, Ecosystm
27 May 2019 - 10:21

There's no doubt that monopolies have helped shape the world as we know it. John D Rockefeller and Standard Oil, for example, were instrumental in industrialising the US by investing in infrastructure - something they could afford only because they were a monopoly. The same could be said of AT&T and telecommunications. And now, Google and Facebook have created Internet monopolies in their respective fields, while developing first-rate new tech.

That said, the world doesn't like monopolies because they represent too much power in one place - a power that is, all too often, abused in the end. It's probably too soon to judge whether there's a case for breaking up these firms, but I have no doubt that strong regulation is called for.

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Mark Billington, Regional Director, Greater China and South-East Asia, ICAEW
21 May 2019 - 11:24

Facebook's data scandal has brought to light the importance of establishing a set of guiding principles (or regulatory framework) to govern the collection and use of data by companies. While splitting up these Big Tech giants might seem like a straightforward solution, the question of accountability still needs to be addressed upfront. As it stands, the underlying problem stems from a lack of these common guiding principles that can address key ethical issues when dealing with personal data.

It is thus crucial that various stakeholders cooperate more closely before any decision is made on whether to regulate private organisations. Technology companies, regulators, academics, and the public should be constantly engaged and consulted, to ensure that everyone's interests are equally represented. Any regulation that is consequently introduced will then need to strike a fine balance between allowing for freedom of expression and protecting users from harmful content.

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Chris Burton, MD, South East Asia Vistra Group
21 May 2019 - 10:07

Monopolies are generally subject to challenge where a firm is the sole seller of a product or it has no close substitutes, so that firm can unfairly influence market prices. Facebook is not a monopoly in an economic sense. It is a platform, upon which content and ideas are shared by the hundreds of millions of individual participants. It is not even analogous to a media monopoly (where editorial views can be disproportionate), because it does not broadcast its own opinions. I do not see the point of breaking up the business on that basis. On regulation, I think yes: Facebook should be regulated to ensure it has implemented sufficient controls to prevent misuse by unscrupulous, extremist operators, and manipulators. Regulation should also ensure that decisions it takes to de-platform are sound and even-handed: Facebook should not de-platform participants just because the firm does not subscribe to a particular political opinion. Rather like the regulation of the BBC in the UK, Facebook must be seen as a neutral platform.

Kostas Anagnostakis, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Niometrics
21 May 2019 - 10:07

Only 31 per cent of consumers in Asia-Pacific believe that their personal data will be treated in a trustworthy manner by companies that offer digital services. Technology companies, big and small, have contributed to this distrust with the recent slew of data breaches that have compromised users' personal data.

Digital platforms have a responsibility to protect their users' privacy and data, but many have failed to do so. Expecting them to voluntarily regulate themselves has not worked either.

Tapping the knowledge field of privacy engineering, our technology encrypts data from the outset because privacy and security are non-negotiable. We have worked with many digital players to move closer to what customers today demand and require - a balance of data intelligence and insight without compromising their data.

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Naveen Menon, President, ASEAN Cisco
21 May 2019 - 10:06

The debate on companies becoming too big and powerful is not a new one. However, I think we are focusing on the wrong question.

For years, we have been comfortable giving up our personal data in exchange for the right to communicate with our friends and family, or access online services and content. What we did not know, though, is how much of our data was being captured and monetised. As we have seen recently, many companies that took our data did not know what was happening either. That is a huge crisis of confidence.

What we really need is a unified framework in place that safeguards consumer data. This should address three key aspects: transparency, accountability, and empowerment.

Companies need to be transparent about how they use and manage data. That is because data often moves fluidly, not just within an organisation, but across companies and third parties. This is where accountability comes in. Regulators need to ensure that companies not only protect consumer data from any hacks, but also use it ethically. Finally, all stakeholders should work towards empowering individuals to have a say on the use of their data for meaningful transactions and experiences that are consistent with their expectations.

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