Beware the tech bub­ble

Like the big banks, big tech uses its lob­by­ing mus­cle to avoid reg­u­la­tion, and thinks it should play by dif­fer­ent rules. And like the banks, it could be about to wreak fi­nan­cial havoc on us all.

The Guardian Weekly - - Front Page - By Rana Foroohar

In ev­ery ma­jor eco­nomic down­turn in US his­tory, the ‘vil­lains’ have been the ‘he­roes’ dur­ing the pre­ced­ing boom,” said the late, great man­age­ment guru Peter Drucker. I can­not help but won­der if that might be the case over the next few years, as the United States (and pos­si­bly the world) heads to­ward its next big slow­down. Down­turns his­tor­i­cally come about once ev­ery decade, and it has been more than that since the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Back then, banks were the “too-big-to-fail” in­sti­tu­tions re­spon­si­ble for our fall­ing stock port­fo­lios, home prices and salaries. Tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, by con­trast, have led the mar­ket up­swing over the past decade. But this time around, it is the big tech firms that could play the spoiler role.

You wouldn’t think it could be so when you look at the big­gest and rich­est tech firms to­day. Take Ap­ple. War­ren Buf­fett says he wished he owned even more Ap­ple stock. (His Berk­shire Hath­away has a 5% stake in the com­pany.) Gold­man Sachs is launch­ing a new credit card with the tech ti­tan, which be­came the world’s first $1tn mar­ket-cap com­pany in 2018. But hid­den within these bullish head­lines are a num­ber of dis­turb­ing eco­nomic trends, of which Ap­ple is al­ready an ex­em­plar. Study this one com­pany and you be­gin to un­der­stand how big tech com­pa­nies – the new too-big-to-fail in­sti­tu­tions – could in­deed sow the seeds of the next cri­sis.

No mat­ter what the Sil­i­con Val­ley gi­ants might ar­gue, ul­ti­mately, size is a prob­lem, just as it was for the banks. This is not be­cause big­ger is in­her­ently bad, but be­cause the com­plex­ity of these or­gan­i­sa­tions makes them so dif­fi­cult to po­lice. Like the big banks, big tech uses its lob­by­ing mus­cle to try to avoid reg­u­la­tion. And like the banks, it tries to sell us on the idea that it de­serves to play by dif­fer­ent rules.

Con­sider the fi­nan­cial engi­neer­ing done by such firms. Like most of the largest and most prof­itable multi­na­tional com­pa­nies, Ap­ple has loads of cash – around $210bn at last count – as well as plenty of debt (close to $110bn). That is be­cause – like nearly ev­ery other large, rich com­pany – it has parked most of its spare cash in off­shore bond port­fo­lios over the past 10 years. This is part of a Kafkaesque fi­nan­cial shell game that has played out since the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Back then, in­ter­est rates were low­ered and cen­tral bankers flooded the econ­omy with easy money to try to en­gi­neer a re­cov­ery. But the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries were large com­pa­nies, which is­sued lots of cheap debt, and used it to buy back their own shares and pay out dividends, which bol­stered cor­po­rate share prices and in­vestors, but not the real econ­omy. The Trump cor­po­rate tax cuts added fuel to this fire. Ap­ple, for ex­am­ple, was re­spon­si­ble for about a quar­ter of the $407bn in buy­backs an­nounced in the six months or so after Trump’s tax law was passed in De­cem­ber 2017 – the big­gest cor­po­rate tax cut in US his­tory.

That phe­nom­e­non has been put on steroids by yet another trend epit­o­mised by Ap­ple: the rise of in­tan­gi­bles such as in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and brands (both of which the com­pany has in spades) rel­a­tive to tan­gi­ble goods as a share of the global econ­omy. As Jonathan Haskel and Stian West­lake show in their book Cap­i­tal­ism Without Cap­i­tal, this shift be­came no­tice­able around 2000, but re­ally took off after the in­tro­duc­tion of the iPhone in 2007. The dig­i­tal econ­omy has a ten­dency to cre­ate su­per­stars, since soft­ware and in­ter­net services are so scal­able and en­joy net­work ef­fects (in essence, they al­low a hand­ful of com­pa­nies to grow quickly and eat ev­ery­one else’s lunch). But ac­cord­ing to Haskel and West­lake, it also seems to re­duce in­vest

econ­omy asa ment across the wholeThis is not only be­cause banks are re­luc­tant to lend to busi­nesses whose in­tan­gi­ble as­sets may sim­ply dis­ap­pear if they go belly-up, but also be­cause of the win­ner-take­sall ef­fect that a hand­ful of com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Ap­ple (and Amazon and Google), en­joy.

This is likely a key rea­son for the dearth of star­tups, de­clin­ing job cre­ation, fall­ing de­mand and other dis­turb­ing trends in our bi­fur­cated econ­omy. Con­cen­tra­tion of power of the sort that Ap­ple and Amazon en­joy is a key rea­son for record lev­els of merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions. In tele­coms and me­dia es­pe­cially, many com­pa­nies have taken on sig­nif­i­cant amounts of debt in or­der to bulk up and com­pete in this new en­vi­ron­ment of stream­ing video and dig­i­tal me­dia.

Some of that debt is now look­ing shaky, which un­der­scores that the next big cri­sis probably won’t em­anate from banks, but from the cor­po­rate sec­tor. Rapid growth in debt lev­els is his­tor­i­cally the best pre­dic­tor of a cri­sis. And for the past sev­eral years, the cor­po­rate bond mar­ket has been on a tear, with com­pa­nies in ad­vanced economies is­su­ing a record amount of debt; the mar­ket grew 70% over the past decade, to reach $10.17tn in 2018. Even medi­ocre com­pa­nies have ben­e­fited from easy money.

But as the in­ter­est rate en­vi­ron­ment changes, per­haps more quickly than was an­tic­i­pated, many could be vul­ner­a­ble. The Bank for In­ter­na­tional Set­tle­ments – the in­ter­na­tional body that mon­i­tors the global fi­nan­cial sys­tem – has warned that the long pe­riod of low rates has cooked up a larger than usual num­ber of “zom­bie” com­pa­nies, which will not have enough prof­its to make their debt pay­ments if in­ter­est rates rise. When rates even­tu­ally do rise, warns the BIS, losses and rip­ple ef­fects may be more se­vere than usual.

Of course, if and when the next cri­sis is upon us, the de­fla­tion­ary power of tech­nol­ogy (mean­ing the way in which it drives down prices), ex­em­pli­fied by com­pa­nies like Ap­ple, could make it more dif­fi­cult to man­age. That is the fi­nal trend worth con­sid­er­ing. Tech­nol­ogy firms drive down the prices of lots of things, and tech-re­lated de­fla­tion is a big part of what has kept in­ter­est rates so low for so long; it has not only con­strained prices, but wages, too. The fact that in­ter­est rates are so low, in part thanks to that tech-driven de­fla­tion, means that cen­tral bankers will have much less room to nav­i­gate through any up­com­ing cri­sis. Ap­ple and the other pur­vey­ors of in­tan­gi­bles have ben­e­fited more than other com­pa­nies from this en­vi­ron­ment of low rates, cheap debt and high stock prices over the past 10 years. But their power has also sowed the seeds of what could be the next big swing in the mar­kets.

A few years ago, I had a fas­ci­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tion with an econ­o­mist at the US Trea­sury’s Of­fice of Fi­nan­cial Re­search, a body that was cre­ated fol­low­ing the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis to study mar­ket trou­ble, and which has since seen its fund­ing slashed by Trump. I was trawl­ing for in­for­ma­tion about fi­nan­cial risk and where it might be held, and the econ­o­mist told me to look at the debt of­fer­ings and cor­po­rate bond pur­chases be­ing made by the largest, rich­est cor­po­ra­tions in the world, such as Ap­ple or Google, whose mar­ket value now dwarfed that of the big­gest banks and in­vest­ment firms.

In a low in­ter­est rate en­vi­ron­ment, with bil­lions of dol­lars in yearly earn­ings, these high-grade firms were is­su­ing their own cheap debt and us­ing it to buy up the higher-yield­ing cor­po­rate debt of other firms. In the search for both higher re­turns and for some­thing to do with all their money, they were, in a way, act­ing like banks, tak­ing large an­chor po­si­tions in new cor­po­rate debt of­fer­ings and es­sen­tially un­der­writ­ing them the way that JP Mor­gan or Gold­man Sachs might. But, it is worth not­ing, since such com­pa­nies are not reg­u­lated like banks, it is dif­fi­cult to track ex­actly what they are buy­ing, how much they are buy­ing and what the mar­ket im­pli­ca­tions might be. There sim­ply is not a pa­per trail the way there is in fi­nance.

I be­gan dig­ging for more on the topic, and about two years later, in 2018, I came across a stun­ning Credit Suisse re­port that both con­firmed and quan­ti­fied the idea. The econ­o­mist who wrote it, Zoltan Pozsar, foren­sica

lly­anal­ysed the $1tn in cor­po­rate sav­ings parked in off­shore

ac­counts, mostly by big tech firms. The largest and­mostin­tell

ec­tu­al­prop­erty-rich 10% of com­pa­nies – Ap­ple, Mi­crosoft, Cisco, Or­a­cle and Al­pha­bet (Google’s par­ent com­pany) among them – con­trolled 80% of this hoard.

Ac­cord­ing to Pozsar’s cal­cu­la­tions, most of that money was held not in cash but in bonds – half of it in cor­po­rate bonds. The much­lauded overseas “cash” pile held by the rich­est Amer­i­can com­pa­nies, a trea­sure that Re­pub­li­cans un­der Trump had cited as the key rea­son they passed their ill-ad­vised tax “re­form” plan, was ac­tu­ally a giant bond port­fo­lio. And it was owned not by banks or mu­tual funds, but by the world’s big­gest tech­nol­ogy firms. In ad­di­tion to be­ing the most prof­itable and least reg­u­lated in­dus­try on the planet, the Sil­i­con Val­ley gi­ants had also be­come cru­cial within the mar­ket­place, hold­ing as­sets that – if sold or down­graded – could top­ple the mar­kets them­selves. Hid­ing in plain sight was an amaz­ing new dis­cov­ery: big tech, not big banks, was the new too-big-to-fail in­dus­try.

As I be­gan to think about the com­par­i­son, I found more and more par­al­lels. Some of them were at­ti­tu­di­nal. It was fas­ci­nat­ing, for ex­am­ple, to see how much the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try’s re­sponse to the 2016 elec­tion cri­sis mir­rored the bank­ing in­dus­try’s be­hav­iour in the wake of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 2008. Just as Wall Street had ob­fus­cated as much as pos­si­ble about what it was do­ing be­fore and after the cri­sis, ev­ery bit of use­ful in­for­ma­tion about elec­tion med­dling had to be clawed away from the ti­tans of big tech. It is a “deny and de­flect” at­ti­tude sim­i­lar to what we saw from fi­nanciers in 2008, and has re­sulted in de­servedly ter­ri­ble PR.

But there are more sub­stan­tive sim­i­lar­i­ties as well. At a meta level, I see four ma­jor like­nesses in big fi­nance and big tech: cor­po­rate mythol­ogy, opac­ity, com­plex­ity and size. In terms of mythol­ogy, Wall Street be­fore 2008 sold the idea that what was good for the fi­nan­cial sec­tor was good for the econ­omy. Un­til quite re­cently, big tech tried to con­vince us of the same. But there are two sides to the story, and nei­ther in­dus­try is quick to ac­knowl­edge or take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the down­sides of “in­no­va­tion”.

A raft of re­search shows us that trust in lib­eral democ­racy, govern­ment, me­dia and non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions de­clines as so­cial me­dia us­age rises. In Myan­mar, Face­book has been lever­aged to sup­port geno­cide. In China, Ap­ple and Google have bowed to govern­ment de­mands for cen­sor­ship. In the US, of course, per­sonal data is be­ing col­lected, mon­e­tised and weaponised in ways that we are only just be­gin­ning to un­der­stand, and mo­nop­o­lies are squash­ing job cre­ation and in­no­va­tion. At this point, it is harder and harder to ar­gue that the ben­e­fits of plat­form tech­nol­ogy vastly out­weigh the costs.

Big tech and big banks are also sim­i­lar in the opac­ity and com­plex­ity of their op­er­a­tions. The al­go­rith­mic use of data is like the complex se­cu­ri­ti­sa­tion done by the world’s too-big-to-fail banks in the sub­prime era. Both are un­der­stood largely by in­dus­try ex­perts who can use in­for­ma­tion asym­me­try to hide risks and the ne­far­i­ous things that com­pa­nies profit from, such as du­bi­ous po­lit­i­cal ads.

Yet that com­plex­ity can back­fire. Just as many big-bank risk man­agers had no idea what was go­ing in to and com­ing out of the black box be­fore 2008, big tech ex­ec­u­tives them­selves can be thrown off bal­ance by the ways in which their tech­nol­ogy can be mis­used. Con­sider, for ex­am­ple, the New York Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2018 that re­vealed that Face­book had al­lowed a num­ber of other big tech com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Ap­ple, Amazon and Mi­crosoft, to tap sen­si­tive user data even as it was promis­ing to pro­tect pri­vacy.

Face­book en­tered into the data-shar­ing deals – which are a win­win for the big tech firms in gen­eral, to the ex­tent that they in­crease traf­fic be­tween the var­i­ous plat­forms and bring more and more users to them – be­tween 2010 and 2017 to grow its so­cial net­work as fast

as pos­si­ble. But nei­ther Face­book nor the other com­pa­nies in­volved could keep track of all the im­pli­ca­tions of the ar­range­ments for user pri­vacy. Ap­ple claimed to not even know it was in such a deal with Face­book, a rather stun­ning ad­mis­sion given the way in which Ap­ple has mar­keted it­self as a pro­tec­tor of user pri­vacy. At Face­book, “some en­gi­neers and ex­ec­u­tives … con­sid­ered the pri­vacy re­views an im­ped­i­ment to quick in­no­va­tion and growth”, read a telling line in the Times piece. And grow it has: Face­book took in more than $40bn in rev­enue in 2017, more than dou­ble the $17.9bn it re­ported for 2015.

Face­book’s pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of growth over gov­er­nance is egre­gious but not unique. The ten­dency to look my­opi­cally at share price as the one and only in­di­ca­tor of value is some­thing fos­tered by Wall Street, but by no means limited to it. The obliv­i­ous­ness of the tech ex­ec­u­tives who cut these deals re­minds me of bank ex­ec­u­tives who had no un­der­stand­ing of the risks built into their bal­ance sheets un­til mar­kets started to blow up dur­ing the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

It is no ac­ci­dent that most of the wealth in our world is be­ing held by a smaller and smaller num­ber of rich in­di­vid­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions who use fi­nan­cial wiz­ardry such as tax off­shoring and buy-backs to en­sure that they keep it out of the hands of na­tional gov­ern­ments. It is what we have been taught to think of as nor­mal, thanks to the ide­o­log­i­cal tri­umph of the Chicago School of eco­nomic thought, which has, for the past five decades or so, preached, among other things, that the only pur­pose of cor­po­ra­tions should be to max­imise prof­its.

The max­imi­sa­tion of share­holder value is part of the larger process of “fi­nan­cial­i­sa­tion”. It is a process that has risen, in tan­dem with the Chicago School of think­ing, since the 1980s, and has cre­ated a sit­u­a­tion in which mar­kets have be­come not a con­duit for sup­port­ing the real econ­omy, as Adam Smith would have said they should be, but rather, the tail that wags the dog. “Con­sumer wel­fare,” rather than cit­i­zen wel­fare, is our pri­mary con­cern. We as­sume that ris­ing share prices sig­nify some­thing good for the econ­omy as a whole, as op­posed to merely in­creas­ing wealth for those who own them. In this process, we have moved from be­ing a mar­ket econ­omy to be­ing what Har­vard law pro­fes­sor Michael San­del would call a “mar­ket so­ci­ety”, ob­sessed with profit max­imi­sa­tion in ev­ery as­pect of our lives. Our ac­cess to the ba­sics – health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, jus­tice – is de­ter­mined by wealth. Our ex­pe­ri­ences of our­selves and those around us are thought of in trans­ac­tional terms, some­thing that is re­flected in the lan­guage of the day (we “max­imise” time and “mon­e­tise” re­la­tion­ships).

Now, with the rise of the sur­veil­lance cap­i­tal­ism prac­tised by big tech, we our­selves are max­imised for profit. Re­mem­ber that our per­sonal data is, for these com­pa­nies and the oth­ers that har­vest it, the main busi­ness in­put. As Larry Page him­self once said when asked “What is Google?”: “If we did have a cat­e­gory, it would be per­sonal in­for­ma­tion … the places you’ve seen. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions … Sen­sors are re­ally cheap … Stor­age is cheap. Cameras are cheap. Peo­ple will gen­er­ate enor­mous amounts of data … Ev­ery­thing you’ve ever heard or seen or ex­pe­ri­enced will be­come search­able. Your whole life will be search­able.”

Think about that. You are the raw ma­te­rial used to make the prod­uct that sells you to ad­ver­tis­ers.

Fi­nan­cial mar­kets have fa­cil­i­tated the shift to­ward this in­va­sive, short-term, self­ish cap­i­tal­ism, which has run in tan­dem with both glob­al­i­sa­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment, cre­at­ing a loop in which we are con­stantly com­pet­ing with greater num­bers of peo­ple, in shorter amounts of time, for more and more con­sumer goods that may be cheaper thanks in part to the de­fla­tion­ary ef­fects of both out­sourc­ing and tech-based dis­rup­tion, but that can­not com­pen­sate for our stag­nant in­comes and stressed-out lives.

But you could ar­gue that, in a deeper way, Sil­i­con Val­ley rep­re­sents the apex of the shift to­ward fi­nan­cial­i­sa­tion. To­day the large tech com­pa­nies are run by a gen­er­a­tion of busi­ness lead­ers who came of age and started their firms at a time when govern­ment was viewed as the en­emy, and profit max­imi­sa­tion was uni­ver­sally seen as the best way to ad­vance the econ­omy, and in­deed so­ci­ety. Reg­u­la­tion or lim­its on cor­po­rate be­hav­iour have been viewed as tyran­ni­cal or even au­thor­i­tar­ian. “Self-reg­u­la­tion” has be­come the norm. “Con­sumers” have re­placed ci­ti­zens. All of it is re­flected in the Val­ley’s “move fast and break things” men­tal­ity, which the tech ti­tans view as a fait ac­com­pli.

Per­haps. But the idea that this should pre­clude any dis­cus­sion of the ef­fects of the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor on the pub­lic at large is sim­ply ar­ro­gant. There is a huge cost to this line of think­ing. Con­sider the $1tn in wealth that has been parked off­shore by the US’s largest, most IP-rich firms. A tril­lion is an 18th of the US’s an­nual GDP, much of which was gar­nered from prod­ucts and services made pos­si­ble by core govern­ment-funded re­search and in­no­va­tors. Yet US ci­ti­zens have not got their fair share of that in­vest­ment be­cause of tax off­shoring. It is worth not­ing that while the US cor­po­rate tax rate was re­cently low­ered from 35% to 21%, most big com­pa­nies have for years paid only about 20% of their in­come, thanks to var­i­ous loop­holes. The tech in­dus­try pays even less – roughly 11-15% – for this same rea­son: data and IP can be off­shored while a fac­tory or gro­cery store can­not. This points to yet another ne­olib­eral myth – the idea that if we sim­ply cut US tax rates, then these “Amer­i­can” com­pa­nies will bring all their money home and in­vest it in job-cre­at­ing goods and services in the US. But the na­tion’s big­gest and rich­est com­pa­nies have been at the fore­front fore of glob­al­i­sa­tion since the 1980s. De­spite small de­creases in overseas rev­enues re for the past cou­ple of years, nearly half of all sales from S&P 500 com­pa­nies com come from abroad.

How, then, can such com­pa­nies be per­ceived as be­ing “to­tally com­mit­ted” to the US, or, in­deed, to any par­tic­u­lar coun­try? Their com­mit­ment is to cus­tomers and in­vestors, and when both of them are in­creas­ingly global, then it is hard to ar­gue for any sort of spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can work­ers or com­mu­ni­ties in the board­room.

“If Ap­ple ac­quires a li­cence to a tech­nol­ogy for a phone it man­u­fac­tures in China, it does not cre­ate em­ploy­ment in the US, be­yond the cre­ator of the li­censed tech­nol­ogy if they are in the US,” says Daniel Alpert, a fi­nancier and a pro­fes­sor at Cor­nell Univer­sity study­ing the ef­fects of this shift in in­vest­ment. “Apps, Net­flix and Amazon movies don’t cre­ate jobs the way a new plant would.” Or, as my Fi­nan­cial Times col­league Mar­tin Wolf has put it, “[Ap­ple] is now an in­vest­ment fund at­tached to an in­no­va­tion ma­chine and so a black hole for ag­gre­gate de­mand. The idea that a lower cor­po­rate tax rate would raise in­vest­ment in such busi­nesses is lu­di­crous.” In short, cashrich cor­po­ra­tions – es­pe­cially tech firms – have be­come the fi­nan­cial en­gi­neers of our day.

There are the ways in which big tech is driv­ing the mega-trends in global mar­kets, as we have just ex­plored. Then, there are the ways tech com­pa­nies are play­ing in those mar­kets that grant them an un­fair ad­van­tage over con­sumers. For ex­am­ple, Google, Face­book and, in­creas­ingly, Amazon now own the dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing mar­ket, and can set what­ever terms they like for cus­tomers. The opac­ity of their al­go­rithms cou­pled with their dom­i­nance of their re­spec­tive mar­kets makes it im­pos­si­ble for cus­tomers to have an even play­ing field. This can lead to ex­ploita­tive pric­ing and/or be­hav­iours that put our pri­vacy at risk. Con­sider also the way Uber uses “surge pric­ing” to set rates based on cus­tomers’ will­ing­ness to pay. Or the “shadow pro­files” that Face­book com­piles on users. Or the way in which Google and Master­card teamed up to track whether on­line ads led to phys­i­cal store sales, without let­ting Master­card hold­ers know they were be­ing tracked.

As in any trans­ac­tion, the party that knows the most can make the smartest deal. The bot­tom line is that both big-plat­form tech play­ers and large fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions sit in the cen­tre of an hour­glass of in­for­ma­tion and com­merce, tak­ing a cut of what­ever passes through. They are the house, and the house al­ways wins.

As with the banks, sys­temic reg­u­la­tion may well be the only way to pre­vent big tech com­pa­nies from un­fairly cap­i­tal­is­ing on those ad­van­tages.

There are ques­tions of whether Amazon or Face­book could lever­age their ex­ist­ing po­si­tions in e-com­merce or so­cial me­dia to un­fair ad­van­tage in fi­nance, us­ing what they al­ready know about our shop­ping and buy­ing pat­terns to push us into buy­ing the prod­ucts they want us to in ways that are ei­ther a) an­ti­com­pet­i­tive, or b) preda­tory. There are also ques­tions about whether they might cut and run at the first sign of mar­ket trou­ble, desta­bil­is­ing the credit mar­kets in the process.

“Big-tech lend­ing does not in­volve hu­man in­ter­ven­tion of a longterm re­la­tion­ship with the client,” said Agustín Carstens, the gen­eral man­ager of the Bank for In­ter­na­tional Set­tle­ments. “These loans are strictly trans­ac­tional, typ­i­cally short-term credit lines that can be au­to­mat­i­cally cut if a firm’s con­di­tion de­te­ri­o­rates. This means that, in a down­turn, there could be a large drop in credit to [small and mid­dle­sized com­pa­nies] and large so­cial costs.” If you think that sounds a lot like the sit­u­a­tion that we were in back in 2008, you would be right.

The ex­tra­or­di­nary val­u­a­tions of the big tech firms are due in part to the mar­ket’s ex­pec­ta­tions that they will re­main lightly reg­u­lated, lightly taxed mo­nop­oly pow­ers. But that is not guar­an­teed to be the case in the fu­ture. An­titrust and mo­nop­oly is­sues are fast gain­ing at­ten­tion in Wash­ing­ton, where the ti­tans of big tech may soon have a reck­on­ing

This is an edited ex­tract from Don’t Be Evil: The Case Against Big Tech by Rana Foroo Foroohar

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