Bill Gates says the US government must step up its regulation of big tech companies, whose influence in culture, business and all areas of life is becoming more pervasive.
“Technology has become so central that governments have to think: What does that mean about elections? What does that mean about bullying? What does it mean about wiretapping authorities that let you find out what’s going on financially or drug money laundering, things like that,” the Microsoft (MSFT) founder said at the Economic Club of Washington, DC, on Monday. “So, yes, the government needs to get involved.”
Gates discussed everything from the early days of Microsoft to his investments in clean energy during the talk. But his thoughts on government interference in the tech sector were particularly relevant given recent government scrutiny of the size, influence and privacy practices of tech companies such as Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) by both antitrust enforcement agencies and political candidates.
Gates said he expects “there will be more regulation of the tech sector,” particularly as it relates to privacy issues. The protection of user privacy and use of user data has been a flashpoint especially for Facebook, which has been criticized for multiple data scandals.
“The fact that now this is the way people consume media has really brought it in to a realm where we need to shape it so that the benefits need to outweigh the negatives,” he said.
Microsoft faced its own antitrust lawsuit in 1998 and was forced to change some of its business practices as a result of its settlement with the US Justice Department. Gates said Monday that today’s tech giants have been able to learn from his past mistakes.
“I, for the early years of Microsoft , bragged to people that I didn’t have an office in Washington, DC, and eventually I came to regret that statement, because it was kind of almost like taunting Washington, DC,” Gates said. “Now, (the other tech companies) are very engaged.”
And it appears his own company learned, too — Microsoft has so far avoided the antitrust examinations its fellow big tech companies are currently facing.