In recent days, lawmakers and regulators in Washington D.C. have ramped up scrutiny of the major tech companies. In a new interview, the former CEO of eBay (EBAY) and current chief executive of a fast-growing management software company sang the same tune, saying the sector “needs to face up” to the problems it’s causing.
“Technology is having a fundamental impact on our lives or over the world, our lives at home, and now increasingly our lives at work,” says ServiceNow CEO (NOW) John Donahoe. “And that is largely a very positive impact.”
“But I also think there's some second-order consequences. For instance, as automation occurs, it's going to have some impact on jobs...it has some impact on issues such as income inequality,” Donahoe adds.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held the first in a series of antitrust hearings about whether and how to address the concentration of market power in big tech. A day earlier, President Donald Trump said, “Obviously, there is something going on in terms of monopoly.”
Those developments came a week after news broke that the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department have divided up oversight of Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Apple (AAPL), and Facebook (FB), suggesting the agencies may soon launch antitrust investigations.
Urging fellow tech companies to change their ways, Donahoe said they need to “engage as constructive citizens, not just in the technology world, but as members of society.”
Donahoe made the comments to Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that aired on Yahoo Finance in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Since 2017, Donahoe has run ServiceNow, a management software company that saw 36% year-over-year revenue growth last year and just announced deals with the likes of Google and Deloitte. He worked for Bain & Company for 20 years, starting as an associate consultant and rising to become the firm's president and CEO in 1999. Then he leapt to eBay, where he served as president and CEO from 2008 to 2015.
Donahoe noted other tech leaders who are taking constructive steps to address the negative consequences of advances like social media platforms and app services. For example, he pointed to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who last October called for more robust data privacy laws in the U.S.
“What Tim Cook is doing, for instance, at Apple around privacy—they're engaging thoughtfully around that topic,” Donahoe says. “I think that that's a good example of what I think all technology companies need to take seriously.”
He said he expects better corporate citizenry from the tech sector moving forward.
“We need to...take responsibility for some of the second-order consequences technology creates, and engage in those issues, be it privacy, be it income inequality, be it job security,” he says.
“Then, you know, use the talented people we have in our companies on a volunteer basis and use our resources to try to engage, and I think you're going to see more and more of that.”
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.