The Big Tech Extortion Racket
In 2018, an Irish technologist by the name of Dylan Curran downloaded all the data Google had collected about him—the equivalent of more than three million Word documents—and sifted through it, revealing the extent to which Google had surveilled his online activity over the course of a decade. All of his Google searches, emails, YouTube views, website visits, and more were preserved in 5.5 gigabytes’ worth of detail—part of the tech giant’s massive effort to turn individuals’ data into advertising revenue. Criticism of companies like Google has only mounted in recent years, including a series of antitrust hearings this past summer that saw Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon defending themselves before Congress. In this episode of the podcast, web editor Violet Lucca is joined by Barry C. Lynn, the executive director of the Open Markets Institute and author of “The Big Tech Extortion Racket,” an article in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine that was adapted from his forthcoming book Liberty from All Masters: The New American Autocracy vs. the Will of the People. They discuss the ways in which tech companies have circumvented and rewritten the laws that govern our markets. In his description of how tech companies enact discriminatory pricing, Lynn reflects on the principles behind common carrier rules, the end of net neutrality, the rise of tech monopolization, and the future of our democracy under these troubled circumstances.