Burning Platforms: Platforms vs. Nation-States

On this Burning Platforms we look at platforms vs. the nation-state. Platforms are acting like nation-states and governments are trying to become platforms, but are they both getting it wrong.

Key points:

  • Facial recognition continues to be a privacy battleground in Australia, with the Information and Privacy Commissioner determining that 7-Eleven store group interfered with customers' privacy through facial recognition technology unnecessarily and without proper notice and consent.
  • There is broad consensus among many academics, lawyers and policymakers that facial recognition technology is problematic, and this has become a mainstream issue, with more examples of the normalisation of facial recognition use including school children in the UK being subject to facial scans to pay for canteen lunches.
  • Another example of more algorithmic incursions into our privacy and our lives is Tesla's new insurance scheme, scanning driver behaviour and collecting driver data to define insurance premiums, with potential for significant unintended consequences.
  • Accountability on social media is being scrutinised, with the Deputy PM calling for more regulation on social media commentary. The Centre for Responsible Technology have backed this call.
  • However, a complex area that is part of this issue is anonymity online. Some have expressed the significance of online anonymity, while others believe it contributes to online harms.
  • The longevity and permanence of online commentary, identity building online throughout vulnerable periods like adolescence (and children's rights online in general), but also the weaponisation of commentary through fake and coordinated harms like trolling and bot accounts all contribute to this multi-faceted issue.
  • Many Big Tech companies have been explicitly stepping in to perform functions that would normally fall to the state where they perceive the state has failed, like Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs carving out a waterfront in Toronto to build as their own sovereign area, and Doctolib in France becoming an intermediary between French citizens and the public health service.
  • There are instances of private tech companies integrating with public services which is not being scrutinised properly, like how NSW transport payment card Opal is able to be used in private Uber vehicles and Peter Thiel's data firm Palantir providing sensitive intelligence services to governments.
  • Platform models ruthlessly pursue market creation, and Big Tech companies see public services, and even human interaction more broadly as simply more markets that they can conquer.
  • Big Tech leaders like Zuckerberg and Bezos are also concerned with power as well as profit, and perhaps see themselves as equal to or even not bound by the state.


You can also listen to Burning Platforms as a podcast below: