In such a fast-growing space as technology, the number of startup firms seems endless, but is it really? Are young firms getting off the ground, or are tech giants swallowing them up before they have a chance to spread their wings and contribute to the market by adding competition and innovation? An editorial from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat representing Massachusetts who plans to run for president in 2020, suggests companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are stifling innovation in the tech industry and proposes the government step in.

Warren cites the U.S. government’s antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s as an example of how the Feds can promote competitive markets by breaking up tech giants. She says today’s large technology companies have too much power, and she cites two strategies these companies typically use to limit competition: mergers and using proprietary marketplaces. Specifically, Warren cites Facebook’s purchase of companies like Instagram and Google’s purchase of Waze as examples of questionable mergers and Amazon’s Marketplace, which sells its own goods on its own platform, as an example of a proprietary marketplace operating in a potentially troublesome way.

Many other government officials are also talking about this issue. For instance, last summer, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat representing Virginia, wrote a whitepaper outlining 20 potential policy proposals for regulating social media and tech firms. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was even brought before Congress last April to “answer” for his company’s part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Though Zuckerberg was essentially sent away with a scolding and a warning, the stage is set for something big to happen where big tech firms are involved.

If the big dogs in the industry are indeed snuffing out the up-and-comers, then they do not have to compete to offer best-in-class data privacy and security; they don’t even necessarily need to innovate to survive. Could the answer be breaking them apart? Warren offers a glimpse into what this could look like. First, she says there could be legislation prohibiting large tech platforms from owning both a platform utility and a participant on that platform. Second, she says the government could “unwind” anti-competitive tech mergers, including Amazon and Whole Foods, Facebook and WhatsApp, and Google and Nest, among others.

While companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google provide important services for consumers and businesses in a connected world, the industry is now encroaching on new territory. Never before have tech companies had so much control over so much data, and while large tech companies by default are not bad, the way forward may require some forced responsibility, so to speak. If history acts a guide, legislation may be necessary to get back to a tech landscape in which startup companies have a shot at bringing their unique and valuable solutions to market.

Legislation is also in the works for improving the cybersecurity of connected devices and protecting user data. As the number of connected devices soars to unprecedented levels, security and privacy will need to be a priority. The tech industry in the 21st century is in unchartered waters, and while unchartered waters are exciting and full of promise, the unknown also means danger may lurk around any corner.

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