By Rana Fohoorar
- Makers and Takers; The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business (2016)
- Don't Be Evil; How Big Tech Betrayed Its Founding Principles - And All of Us (2019)
Google and Facebook receive 90% of the world's news advertising spend. Amazon takes half of all e-commerce in the US. Google and Apple operating systems run on all but 1% of cell phones globally. And 80% of corporate wealth is now held by 10% of companies - the digital titans. How did these once-idealistic and innovative companies come to manipulate elections, violate our privacy and pose a threat to the fabric of our democracy?
Through her skilled reporting and unparalleled access, Rana Foroohar reveals in Don't Be Evil the true extent to which the 'FAANG's (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) crush or absorb competitors, hijack our personal data and mental space and offshore their exorbitant profits. What's more, she shows how these threats to our democracies, livelihoods and minds are all intertwined. Yet Foroohar also lays out a plan for how we can resist, creating a framework that fosters innovation while protecting us from the dark side of digital technology.
John Naughton on The Guardian wrote:
"Foroohar, a business journalist and associate editor at the Financial Times, launches a trenchant critique of the world’s largest technology firms, including Google and its parent company, Alphabet. The book’s title borrows the original motto of Google—now belied by its actual behavior, in the author’s view. Foroohar writes in an easy-to-read journalistic style, citing many speeches and interviews with numerous tech titans. She suggests a variety of ways to rein in the technology giants, including breaking up the firms (or at least limiting their growth), making clear that individuals (and not companies) own their personal data, and ensuring that highly profitable technology firms are properly taxed, mainly by closing egregious loopholes brought about and preserved by political lobbying."
Philip Delves Broughton on Financial Times wrote:
"The great thing about her book is that it breaks the mesmerising spell that the tech giants seem to have cast upon governments, mass media and users everywhere. The beginning of wisdom in this matter is to realise that Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, Uber et al are just very large corporations that do what corporations have done from time immemorial – exploit resources in order to generate profit. The only differences between them and the corporate giants of old are the nature of the resources they have appropriated and the grotesque profit margins that they obtain. Foroohar is well qualified to tackle them. [...] Basically, though, she comes across as a level-headed, informed and well-connected journalist: most people in the industry return her calls, even if they make sure to have a PR adviser listening in. Which is prudent, since Foroohar combines a polite manner with a high-powered crap-detector. [...] we now find ourselves faced with the same problem as faced the United States in the early 1900s: how to bring these behemoths under democratic control. And one of the most useful things about this book is that it does not fall into the trap of regarding all the tech giants as being the same. They’re not and discriminating between them will be the key to regulating them. The business model of Facebook and Google, for example, is radically different from those of Apple or Microsoft. And Amazon is a case apart. [...] The most startling thought that emerges from Don’t Be Evil, though, is that big tech may have already become “too big to fail” because the companies have become systemically critical to our economies – for reasons that have little to do with technology. The risk comes from the colossal 'cash' reserves that they have parked abroad in best tax-avoidance manner. Foroohar says that more than half of those stashes are denominated not in dollars, but in corporate bonds. And if anything should happen to the value of those, then it might be 2008 all over again, but without a safety net. So much for not being evil."""""
"In her previous book, Makers and Takers: How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street, Foroohar blamed banks and financiers for gutting the economy. The balance sheet shenanigans of the 'takers' were robbing the people who ran proper businesses, the 'makers'. In Don’t Be Evil she compares the moral void in finance that led to the financial crisis to what she now sees in Big Tech. She predicts similar doom. Banks grew without regard for consumers or society, by co-opting politicians and by becoming essentially self-regulated. Big Tech has followed suit. [...] Foroohar devotes a final chapter to potential solutions to the problem of tech company evil. She proposes a bipartisan national commission on the future of data and digital technology which could report to the US Congress. These wise men and women could consider breaking up the tech groups, to separate their utility-like platforms from their commercial activities. They would try to price the personal data currently harvested for free by tech companies, and look at how they pay tax. We are not all built to hustle and disrupt like twenty-something tech titans, and Foroohar would also like to see a Digital New Deal which considers the broad, human costs of artificial intelligence, big data and automation."
More Videos with Foroohar about the Book
A 20-minute interview by the Institute of New Economic Thinking (November 2019):
Alternatively, if you have more time, you may also be interested in this lecture that she gave at a book store (50 minutes) in December 2019.
Table of Contents of Don't Be Evil
- A Summary of the Case
- The Valley of the Kings
- Advertising and Its Discontents
- Party Like It's 1999
- Darkness Rises
- A Slot Machine in Your Pocket
- The Network Effect
- The Uberization of Everything
- The New Monopolists
- Too Fast to Fail
- In the Swamp
- 2016: The Year It All Changed
- A New World War
- How Not to Be Evil
About Rana Foroohar
Rana Foroohar is Global Business Columnist and an Associate Editor at the Financial Times. She is also CNN’s global economic analyst. Prior to joining the FT and CNN, Foroohar spent 6 years at TIME, as an assistant managing editor and economic columnist. She previously spent 13 years at Newsweek, as an economic and foreign affairs editor and a foreign correspondent covering Europe and the Middle East. Hopkins School of International Affairs and the East West Center. She is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and sits on the advisory board of the Open Markets Institute. Foroohar graduated in 1992 from Barnard College, Columbia University.