Handful of digital giants threaten to dominate AI tech, think tank warns

The report comes amid continued pressure for big tech companies to be regulated.

Big technology companies’ access to millions of people’s data threatens to dominate artificial intelligence, a think tank has warned.

A paper by the Institute for Public Policy Research claims the power of giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon will enable them to develop AI technologies more advanced and faster than others, posing a threat to democracy and potentially driving out smaller competitors.

The Digital Commonwealth: From Enclosure to Commons details analysis behind this week’s call by the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice to regulate the activities of digital giants, in a similar fashion to water and energy suppliers.

The report sets out a number of recommendations (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“The digital giants occupy the commanding heights of the economy,” said Mat Lawrence, one of the report’s authors.

“Their business model is universal in ambition: the extraction and analysis of ever-more data for profit, and the control of the digital infrastructure on which we all depend.”

“Instead of a world where digital power is concentrated in the hands of the few, we need to build a digital commonwealth, where data and the digital infrastructure are organised as an open, collective good to drive inclusive innovation.”

The paper claims Google, Facebook and Amazon will be able to develop AI technologies more advanced and faster than others (Jonathan Brady/PA)

As well as regulation, the report sets out a number of recommendations, such as compelling big tech companies entering a new market to open up their data if it gives them an unfair advantage, under the watch of the Competition and Markets Authority.

“We stand at a crossroads,” said co-author Laurie Laybourn-Langton.

“So far, the development of the modern digital economy has largely been determined by powerful market actors, with little proactive or innovative response from government.

“It is high time that changes. Without bold action, the boundless ambition of the universal platforms threatens to undermine democracy, accelerate inequality and concentrate economic power.”

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