The private sector’s role in the digital age appears pervasive and ever-growing, a
driving force behind the greatest expansion of access to information in history. Vast social
media forums for public expression are owned by private companies. Major platforms
aggregating and indexing global knowledge, and designing the algorithms that influence
what information is seen online, result from private endeavour. The infrastructure for
mobile technology, by which billions communicate and reach the Internet, depends upon
private investment, maintenance and ownership. The tools for law enforcement and
intelligence are often drawn from products of the private surveillance and data-processing
industries. Private companies design, manufacture and often maintain the devices or
services on which the most important personal data are stored — from financial and healthcare
information to e-mails, text messages, search histories, photographs and videos.

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