The chief executives of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple were called before a House antitrust committee this week, ostensibly to answer questions about whether they have too much power and whether that hurts consumers.
The tech bosses, who appeared via videoconference, fended off questions about being “cyber barons,” saying they have plenty of competition and that consumers have other options for the services they offer.
But do they? Last year, in an effort to understand just how dependent we are on these companies, I did an experiment for the tech news site Gizmodo to see how hard it would be to remove them from my life.
To do that wasn’t easy. From my years writing about digital privacy, I knew these companies were in the background of many of our online interactions. I worked with a technologist named Dhruv Mehrotra, who designed a custom tool for me, a virtual private network that kept my devices from sending data to or receiving data from the tech giants by blocking the…