The crash that affected the technology giant Google leaving its various services off or unstable in several countries around the world triggered once again the alert for the concentration and dependence created by the big technology companies.
Services such as Gmail, Calendar, Google Drive, YouTube, Google Assistant, and Google Home, widely used to schedule appointments, hold meetings, send messages and documents, control internal lighting and temperature, among other things, simply went down. According to the company, a failure in the authentication system due to a problem with the internal storage quota affected services for 45 minutes.
In some countries, the failure is reported to have lasted longer. The duration of the problem, however, is not the focus. Without being able to perform professional or personal tasks, communicate or even turn on the lights in the room, used as we are to doing several activities at the same time using different services and devices, a few minutes is just enough to cause alarm.
Some figures may give an idea of the extent of this incident. DownDetector , an online real-time monitoring and fault detection service has registered more than 100,000 users having trouble accessing YouTube.
The extent of the flaw, which revealed the substantial volume of online activities that can be interrupted by a problem in a single company, has brought to light the evident risk underlying digital concentration. The dependence on technology has grown a lot while investments in quality and reliability tests have not increased in the same proportion. This is perhaps an important gap to be filled.
Concentration in the regulators’ target
A few days before the disruption of Google services, one of Amazon’s data centers in Virginia failed for an hour and a half. The problem affected not only the company’s users but also several other services and websites that use the AWS cloud computing system. These failures made many people realize how much they depend on a company to perform basic daily tasks.
The questioning about the concentration of the technology giants is also the target of regulatory authorities in several countries. Last week, the US Federal Trade Commission and 46 American states filed lawsuits against Facebook for violating antitrust rules with the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram. This is the second accusation made by US regulatory authorities against a company in Silicon Valley this year. The government has recently filed a complaint against Google over deals that exclude competitors from the search business.
The covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown that the connectivity and mobility provided by cloud platforms and services are crucial and have been substantial in maintaining activity and productivity. Many businesses have grown or survived thanks to the digital services and e-commerce platforms made available by companies like Google and Amazon, among others. They were the ones that enabled the digital ecosystem that minimized the effects of the pandemic.
The question of the limits of dependence puts us in a dilemma whose solution will require a deep and thoughtful reflection from all of us to minimize not only the occurrence but also its extent and effects in our lives.