2019: Revenge On The Nerds

As we bid goodbye to 2018, it is customary to make predictions for the year ahead -- and rather than fall down that rabbit hole with forecasts that are way too specific, what is increasingly obvious is that we will see revenge against the tech giants.

You can't pick out a single point as the killer blow, but there are many lining up to make 2019 a year of change.

Rather than the '80s classic 'Revenge of the Nerds," this will be a retaliatory move by governments and judicial systems that is more of a "Revenge on the Nerds."

It will start on the first day of the year, when France will apply a direct digital sales tax on the tech giants to get around the fact that they have a habit of, legally, moving around money to keep their liabilities within the EU at a minimum.

When they dominate domestic markets and then don't appear to be paying their full and fair share of tax, the worm has to turn at some point. Again, they're not acting illegally, but they are ensuring citizens and their governments are fed up.

After France takes a lead, the UK is set to follow -- we'll have to see if that happens. However, the Rubicon has been crossed on that one, and France will already be taxing the tech giants directly.

There's also the issue of employment. Apps such as Deliveroo and Uber were able to disrupt and cut prices by not owning any assets, other than their booking algorithms, and not paying workers as employers. That has to end now. Uber lost its third case in a row on the issue this week. Deliveroo lost a test case recently too. Soon they will have to begin paying minimum wage, National Insurance, holiday and sick pay.

Essentially, these giants of the app world are being told they have to share risk with their drivers and riders who are now legally classed as employees. It's going to be fascinating to watch whether they carry on appealing or just find a way to absorb the cost. 

Then we have our old favourite: data privacy. It has become clear this week that Facebook may have allowed third parties to see a user's personal information and possibly details of their friends too. Far from putting the Cambridge Analytica debacle behind it, these latest developments would suggest the row will drag on into next year. 

Indeed, after being empty-chaired at a parliamentary committee just a few weeks ago, another invitation has been extended to Mark Zuckerberg to attend so he can be questioned.

MPs have gone so far as to publish Facebook internal emails concerning how the social media giant was considering handling user data. In return, Facebook wants to get its hands on emails from the main MP concerned, Damian Collins. 

Let's be clear -- parliament and Facebook are in a battle here, and it looks like neither side will back down. 

Then yesterday we had a top exec at IPG refer to the social media networks as "toxic" and announce that agencies should be telling their clients to avoid them because of their scant regard for users' data privacy. 

We have the holy trinity there, which can hit the tech giants where it hurts. Direct taxes to avoid money being moved to lower tax regimes, worker rights which will circumvent cost-cutting strategies, and greater scrutiny of how the tech giants handle consumer data. 

The year ahead will see the tech giants reined in on the three delicate areas where they can be impacted the hardest. 

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