Apple and Google’s business models “are not good for users [e] are not good for society,” said ProtonMail CEO and co-founder Andy Yen, in an interview with independent.
The current head of Proton also added that the “surveillance capitalism” “was not the reason why Tim [Berners-Lee] built the web”. The father of the internet has sat on the company’s advisory board since September 2021.
Yen uses the term ‘surveillance capitalism’ to refer to companies that collect data to build user profiles to sell to third-party companies, who use this information for advertising purposes. No wonder the revenue generated from this data is the main source of some Big Tech companies, such as Facebook. Ads targeted at the expense of user privacy are also a source of income for the aforementioned Google and Apple, with the latter building the own business based on search ads on the AppStore.
Since 2014, Proton has been creating other privacy-focused services. Recently, the Swiss-based company announced the centralized hub, unifying Proton Mail, Proton VPN, Proton Calendar and Proton Drive, now accessible to all users who have an account; in addition to improvements and extra features for those already subscribed to paid plans.
The CEO also commented that there are plans to include in Proton’s growth package the range of competing services such as an online document program, password manager, chat applications and others that customers of the service have been asking for.
“To a large extent, products and services have disappeared,” says Yen. “There are three ecosystems, essentially: there’s Microsoft, there’s Google, there’s Apple.” And Facebook, maybe, depending on who you ask. Privacy needs an ecosystem. You talk to most consumers around and ask them, “Do you like Google’s vision of the web? When they realize what it is, they are terrified.”
Lack of competition and anti-competitiveness: a duopoly called Google and Apple
While Yen’s statement is many people’s response to the view towards the company that owns more than 70% of surface internet searches, other Google products continue to be extremely popular. The Android smartphone platform and the Chrome browser, for example, are also the most used globally and easily lead the ranking among competitors. O former CERN physicist states that this popularity can be explained by the lack of competition.
“If you ask someone if they want more privacy and security…everyone wants it,” says Yen, but consumers may not be aware that they have a choice. “With the way Android and iOS are defining all devices — in a frankly anti-competitive way — in a mobile-first world… what else do you know?” he asks.
In addition, says Yen, consumers must accept that they are ‘giving up some things’ because “Google spent however – many billions and 20 years ahead.” However, over time, that gap begins to close.”
Such a move would be forced by European legislation, Proton’s hope to help close the gap that still exists between smaller competitors and Big Tech companies that own the duopoly over the smartphone market.
Laws at the speed of technology: a necessity
THE Digital Markets Law (DMA)whose objective is to guarantee a level playing field for all digital companies, regardless of size, promises to generate significant changes to the technology ecosystem.
Through it, users will be free to choose browsers, virtual assistants and search engines, as well as having the right to uninstall standard programs from the factory, something that today guarantees a privileged position in relation to competitors within the platform. Undoubtedly, it is a challenging goal, given that in the last 20 years the market for digital platforms has been occupied only by companies from Silicon Valley. “Can Europe really apply it… and in a short space of time to make a difference?” asks Yen.
Such decisions are necessary from Yen’s point of view, to prevent these tech companies from not just taking control of smaller competitors — the so-called sherlockingpracticed several times by the iPhone maker.
“The big tech companies are so big that if they don’t compete with you today, they will compete with you in five, six years.” It doesn’t matter what industry you are in. [Pegue] the recent announcement that Apple will enter this payment in advance; this industry will be decimated,” warns Yen.
The rapid changes in this scenario will not only require changes in laws, but a change in mindset, explains Yen. “Why is regulation always so late? We don’t just need to pass legislation and then walk away for a generation; we need to study its update every year; we need laws to advance at the speed of technology”, he concludes.