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Uber’s London fight a sign of tech battles to come

15 2 0

If there’s been one common thread running through almost every industry in the last decade, it has been how a handful of tech firms have revolutionized how the world does business. There’s Google for accessing information; Twitter for sharing opinion and news; Facebook for interacting with friends; Amazon for shopping, AirBnB for places to stay and Uber for getting around.

Until relatively recently, most consumers and governments took this as a positive trend. While there were disputes over individual and limited issues – not least the companies’ unwillingness to pay tax or comply with requests from local regulators – they usually were seen as good for the economy and job opportunities. With their slick lobbying and PR operations, the tech entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley were courted by politicians and civil society alike.

That is changing. The decision by London authorities to strip Uber of its license to operate in the British capital is part of a wider backlash in a rapidly escalating war between governments and the tech firms they believe have become too powerful and contemptuous of rules and democratic authority. Uber and its biggest rival Lyft were ejected from the Texas capital of Austin last year for refusing to fingerprint their drivers. In 2013 in San Francisco and Oakland, tech giants such as Google and Apple’s private employee buses, which were illegally using public bus stops, were blocked by protesters.

Other cities are clearly watching carefully. New York’s city regulators said Monday they were looking at their own probe into Uber, looking specifically at its impact on the city’s own yellow cab sector.

Political perceptions of these tech firms are changing too. After the........

© Japan Today