Recently there’s been a media blitz about the power and influence of what the New York Times calls the “Frightful Five”: Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. Despite this media blitz I suspect that most of us know little about this topic. The more we learn, the more we are likely to know why they earned this nickname. I recently listened to the long NPR interview by Terri Gross on 10/26/2017 with New York Times “State of the Art” tech columnist Farhad Manjoo where he makes the case that that these companies, collectively, are more powerful in many respects than government. His 11/1/2017 column argues that it might not be so bad to be “ruled” by these five companies. Given the alternative of what’s in DC right now, I tend agree despite the occasionally alarming side effects1. But that’s straying away from the topic of this blog post.
This post is simply to point out the potential benefits to each of us to understand and actively manage our relationship with each of these five companies, just as we would manage any other key relationship in our lives.
Managing these relationships starts with something as simple as account name and password management. Yet many people do not even have separate secure passwords and occasionally changed passwords for these five accounts.
Next it makes sense to consider the demands that each these has on us and our devices and how we manage those demands. For example, I’ve preauthorized Microsoft to charge me about $100 per year to keep its core software suite on five family or business devices and give it authorization to automatically keep that software up-to-date as it sees fit on all these devices. I’ve notified my clients as part of my privacy and security policy that I rely on Microsoft online security standards and pointed them to where they can learn more about these standards. I use a new randomly generated 12 digit password every few months and have a system for storing that password and updating in on the devices2.
I could then summarize my policy for the other four tech giants in a similar manner. Being able to summarize the relationship puts me back into a position of power in managing that relationship for my own benefit. I find that most technology breakdowns, not unlike what we refer to as an “mental breakdown” stems from loss of a sense of understanding and control of the most important elements in our lives.
I have a hunch that understanding and management of these five technological relationships will play an increasingly larger role in our individual sense of power, control, accomplishment and happiness in life.
If you feel that you are struggling with your technical relationships, online or data security3, or satisfaction with the big online companies then I welcome a conversation to explore options to improve right now.
1 Yesterday while Christmas shopping with my wife in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania I was individually targeted for the first time with shopping offers that apparently used an artificial intelligence system that compiled a lot of what I would consider in-depth private information about my life. This incident occurred hours after I reported unusual computer security behavior for activity connected to dataflow over a major hotel chain’s wifi network.
2 I have not quite deliberately, but more by default, become an adviser on basic user security issues for individual and small businesses. Here is an older article on password management using Lastpass for the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants that is still good advice today. This advice was updated in 2017 with an endorsement for two factor authentication and even adding hard key as a second manner of authentication for small businesses.
3 Online security is a separate issue from stored data security that should be recognized and managed differently. If you don’t immediately recognize this, then I suggest that this is a clue that you could benefit from an improved understanding and personal/business digital security management plan.