The future of the tech industry is in infrastructure, not data. This means that those companies that control key infrastructure, like chips and cloud computing, hold sway. Companies like ASML, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), rather than X or Meta, will become the most powerful players. Is it their choices that will influence what our collective futures look like? Do we need to adapt our understanding of power in the tech sector to this new reality?
This afternoon, we bring together two expert academics to discuss the importance of these often invisible infrastructure providers: Dr. Michael Veale of University College London will talk about how data is increasingly unimportant due to large firms’ investments in confidential computing technologies; and Dr. Corinne Cath of the University of Delft will talk about the role of cloud computing companies as the driving force behind the tech industry. Sjoera Nas, senior privacy consultant at Privacy Company, will be leading the conversation. Collectively, they will draw out what new research avenues, legislation, and advocacy require an update–following this shift in focus from data to infrastructure, as the locus of power in the tech industry.
About the speakers
Michael Veale is an Associate Professor in digital rights and regulation at University College London’s Faculty of Laws. His research focuses on how to understand and address challenges of power and justice that digital technologies and their users create and exacerbate, in areas such as privacy-enhancing technologies and machine learning.
Corinne Cath is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Delft, where they study the political economy of cloud computing. Cath is also a fellow at the UVA’s critical infralab and a research associate at the Minderoo Centre at the University of Cambridge. As an anthropologist, their interest lies in how power moves through infrastructures (in particular cloud computing).
Sjoera Nas (moderator) is a senior privacy consultant at Privacy Company in The Hague. She worked for almost 12 years at the Dutch Data Protection Authority as lead of the internet team. Sjoera has conducted a large number of Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) on cloud services from Big Tech for the Dutch government and for SURF, the ICT procurement organization for colleges and universities. Her extensive reports on the data protection risks of data processing by Google, Microsoft, Zoom and Facebook (Pages) are publicly available. Sjoera publishes summaries of these DPIAs and DTIAs in blogs at https://www.privacycompany.eu, and publishes updates at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sjoera.
This is a programme in the ACES Geopolitics of Technology series and is co-organized by ARTES, the critical infrastructure lab, TU Delft, and IVIR