Software mega-corporations have been taking advantage of us for decades.
Companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are spying on everyone to an unacceptable degree. Targeted advertising and data mining has gotten out of hand: we need to take back our freedom. Luckily, there's an alternative: Free and Open Source Software (or FOSS), which is free, as in freedom (not free, as in beer, although FOSSware is usually both). This means that anyone can use it, modify it, and distribute it, for any purpose. Well known free software includes Firefox, GNU/Linux, VLC Media Player, and LibreOffice.
Proprietary software is any software which is copyrighted by a company or individual and does not release its source code under a permissive license. Some examples of proprietary software include Microsoft Windows, Photoshop, Facebook, and Google Chrome. Proprietary software is usually sold for profit, like Photoshop, released as a free (as in money) service in exchange for user information, like Google services, or both, like Microsoft Windows.
The Cost of Proprietary Software
Many of the most commonly known large software companies (like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft) are extremely exploitative and take advantage of their users through information harvesting, extremely high prices and intrusive targeted advertising. There are many dangers to this kind of proprietary software.
Most people can only name one or two search engines, image editors, operating systems, word processors, or web browsers. Once a corporation has developed a piece of software, they can create as many copies as they want. This means you can easily make a monopoly in a software market once you have developed some software, as each individual copy of your software costs almost nothing to create and distribute. This is excellent for the pockets of technology company executives, but not good for consumers and entrepreneurs. Because there aren't any companies to compete with in a software monopoly, companies can jack up the prices for their software, whether that price be monetary or a level of privacy invasion, to whatever they wish, and consumers can do very little about it.
In the case of Microsoft Windows, very few users know of any alternatives other than macOS, which is often dismissed as too expensive, so Microsoft can do whatever they want to their customers. Recently, Microsoft started adding targeted advertisements to the Start Menu of their already costly operating system, charging monthly subscription fees to remove ads from Microsoft Solitaire and Minesweeper, and now have irremovable snooping tools that send Microsoft details about everything from your computer hardware to the amount of photos you have viewed in their 'Photos' application in the past day. In one report, a Windows 10 installation configured to transmit as little data as possible to Microsoft sent 5500 messages to Microsoft operated servers in a single day.[2, 3] Also, as Windows users can no longer disable forced updates, they are totally at the mercy of whatever Microsoft throws at them.
As well as Windows, the various services Google offers spy on users to an unacceptable degree. Google stores every search you ever make, your entire browser history in Google Chrome; and in other browsers, browsing history and analytics from millions of websites. Google Analytics, a 'free' service that aggregates various statistics such as page views, location heatmaps, and even aggressive gender and age predictions for every user, has its code embedded in millions of major websites, meaning that even without a Google account, using a browser other than Google Chrome, Google can still generate a comprehensive list of websites you visit and create targeted advertisements based on them. Google has even taken it to the next level, and created entire operating systems, ChromeOS and Android, that have spyware integrated into the operating systems themselves. It has gotten to the point where using Google products is mandatory for use in classrooms in many areas in America and Australia. By locking children into their harmful ecosystems early on, they are creating customers for life. Don't be mistaken — Google is an advertising company, not a search engine, not a cloud service provider, not an operating system developer.
Some software, like Photoshop, isn't renowned for spying or targeted advertising, but rather comes with a massive up-front cost. Adobe Photoshop costs $240 anually for a license, and Microsoft's Visual Studio (code editor) costs $539, also anually. (Prices in USD.) This locks out a massive market of users, like students and people in the third world who can't afford these software pacakges. Also, because of patent law surrounding software, companies can patent broad concepts and create a monopoly that cannot legally be broken. This leads to software like Adobe Photoshop being classed as 'industry standards' which raise the bar even higher for many potential users, as they can't get a job without a license for the software and extensive knowledge of the software.
What Can I Do?
The best thing you can do to stop companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook from becoming even worse than they already are is to stop using their products. Luckily, there is an alternative to the endless exploitation: Free and Open Source Software. FOSSware is community developed software which has its source code publicly released for anyone to freely audit, improve on, or share. This comes with a myriad of benefits, including not being subjected to the unethical pratices of major software corporations, and saving a significant amount of time and money; with the added bonus of equally good software.