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Is America's national security Facebook and Google's problem?

Is America's national security Facebook and Google's problem?
From TechCrunch - April 15, 2018

Outrage that Facebook made the private data of over 87 million of its U.S. users available to the Trump campaign has stoked fears of big US-based technology companies are tracking our every move and misusing our personal data to manipulate us without adequate transparency, oversight, or regulation.

These legitimate concerns about the privacy threat these companies potentially pose must be balanced by an appreciation of the important role data-optimizing companies like these play in promoting our national security.

In his testimony to the combined US Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees, FacebookCEO Mark Zuckerbergwas not wrong to present his company as a last line of defense in an ongoing arms race with Russia and others seeking to spread disinformation and manipulate political and economic systems in the US and around the world.

The vast majority of the two billion Facebook users live outside the United States, Zuckerberg argued, and the US should be thinking of Facebook and other American companies competing with foreign rivals in strategic and competitive terms. Although the American public and US political leaders are rightly grappling with critical issues of privacy, we will harm ourselves if we dont recognize the validity of Zuckerbergs national security argument.

Examples are everywhere of big tech companies increasingly being seen as a threat. US President Trump has been on a rampage against Amazon,and multiple media outlets have called for the company to be broken up as a monopoly. A recentNew York Timesarticle, The Case Against Google, argued that Googleis stifling competition and innovation and suggested it might be broken up as a monopoly. Its time to break up Facebook, Politico argued, calling Facebook a deeply untransparent, out-of-control company that encroaches on its users privacy, resists regulatory oversight and fails to police known bad actors when they abuse its platform. US Senator Bill Nelson made a similar point when he asserted during the Senate hearings that if Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions, then we are going to have to. We, the Congress.

While many concerns like these are valid, seeing big US technology companies solely in the context of fears about privacy misses the point that these companies play a far broader strategic role in Americas growing geopolitical rivalry with foreign adversaries. And while Russia is rising as a threat in cyberspace, China represents a more powerful and strategic rival in the 21stcentury tech convergence arms race.

Data is to the 21stcentury what oil was to the 20th, a key asset for driving wealth, power, and competitiveness. Only companies with access to the best algorithms and the biggest and highest quality data sets will be able to glean the insights and develop the models driving innovation forward. As Facebooks failure to protect its users private information shows, these date pools are both extremely powerful and can be abused. But because countries with the leading AI and pooled data platforms will have the most thriving economies, big technology platforms are playing a more important national security role than ever in our increasingly big data-driven world.

China, which has set a goal of becoming the worlds primary AI innovation center by 2025, occupying the commanding heights of AI technology by 2030, and the global leader in comprehensive national strength and international influence by 2050, understands this. To build a world-beating AI industry, Beijing has kept American tech giants out of the Chinese market for years and stolen their intellectual property while putting massive resources into developing its own strategic technology sectors in close collaboration with national champion companies like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.

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