The geopolitics of big tech
Last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai met with Donald Trump
. “[Pichai] stated strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military,” Trump tweeted. “[We] also discussed political fairness and various things that Google can do for our Country.”
Sounds like a straightforward meeting, right? I mean, the idea that Trump thought Google would be secretly working for the Chinese military against the Americans is a bit weird, but okay.
But then consider the current controversy around Huawei’s alleged ties to the Chinese government. Huawei’s technology is key to the communications networks in many countries. That’s not to mention its consumer hardware, which is increasingly popular too. That’s enough to make governments around the world nervous about how China could secretly exploit Huawei’s position to its advantage.
Huawei’s international footprint and position deep within the networks of rival countries to the Chinese is just one example of how global tech companies present a potential beachhead for their home governments.
If Google is “totally committed to the U.S. Military,” what about the presence it has around the world? Could Google’s presence in the country and access to deep, detailed data about its citizens become a security risk in the case of a conflict? Google will of course say no, but the question is worth asking – if not now then for the future.
And then there’s the point that Google had to state its allegiance to the US military at all. Google and many other large tech companies are large and well-resourced enough to act as quasi-states of their own. They have influence around the world, and the ability to act subtly – but powerfully – in their own interests. In a future global conflict, the politics of tech giants could be an important factor in the direction events took.
A lot is made of the power big tech companies have to affect our lives, but we’re probably still a long way from seeing just how far it will go.