Man Regrets Being One Of Google & Facebook's First Investors

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Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners, one of the earliest investors in Google and Facebook, said that he regrets his choice and the manner in which his funds helped the two companies evolve into Internet giants that they are today. In an editorial published by USA Today on Tuesday, Mr. McNamee accused the two companies of "brain hacking," constantly striving to make their services more addictive by keeping users glued to their screens and gathering more data about them which they can later use to serve them with highly specific ads, convincing them to act when it economically suits them. He compared their business practices to everything from alcohol and gambling to heroin, noting that the aggressive data collection practices they employ are an extremely efficient method of influencing billions of consumers in exchange for some "short-term happiness."

Mr. McNamee stated that those issues aren't exclusive to Google and Facebook, though he focused on them due to his investment history. Regardless, he believes that many of today's tech giants whose business models are based on advertising are using similar tactics to get users hooked to their services and profile them in the process of doing so. This consequently leads to a reduction in opinions and ideas that individuals are exposed to and creates personalized echo chambers online, he wrote. A similar argument was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in late 2016 when she unsuccessfully attempted to make Google and Facebook reveal their advertising algorithms. Mr. McNamee wrote how Facebook and Google's basic services aren't inherently bad for the society but their business models are, though he still didn't call for government regulation and simply said that "a public conversation" on the matter needs to happen.

In a subsequent comment, the investor explained that he doesn't believe smartphone manufacturers like Apple are at fault for the issue at hand and are actually part of a possible solution seeing how their devices are people's primary means of accessing Google and Facebook's services. Apple's recent moves to block ad trackers in Safari and prevent YouTube videos from playing automatically are all part of the firm's effort to stand up to advertising giants, Mr. McNamee believes.

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