What Lies Beneath: Transparency in Online Service Supply Chains

DOI: https: 10.1080/23738871.2020.1745860

30 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2020

See all articles by Jennifer Cobbe

Jennifer Cobbe

University of Cambridge - Computer Laboratory

Chris Norval

University of Cambridge - Computer Laboratory

Jatinder Singh

University of Cambridge -- Dept. Computer Science & Technology (Computer Laboratory)

Date Written: February 6, 2020

Abstract

There is a noticeable trend towards the increased centralization of Internet-based services. Though much focus has been on the dominance of organisations such as Facebook, Google and Netflix, popular consumer-facing services with large user-bases, there has been far less discussion regarding those providing the infrastructure that supports websites, applications and other online services. This bears consideration, given that many online services rely on a range of services and platforms operated by third-party organisations.

As such, this paper explores issues of consolidation as regards the systems supply chains that underpin and drive online services. Specifically, we note that while there are trends towards increased centralization and dominance in the provision of supporting technical infrastructure, the nature of these run-time supply chains are relatively hidden. We explore the broader societal implications of this with regards to power and resilience, emphasizing the lack of means, legal or technical, for uncovering the nature of the supply chains on which online services rely. Given society’s ever-growing reliance on data-driven technology, we conclude by arguing that more can be done to increase levels of transparency over the supply arrangements of technical infrastructure. This as a necessary precursor to determining what interventions, if any, may be required to deal with issues of consolidation in online infrastructure.

JEL Classification: K24, L1, L12, L4, L86, O3,

Suggested Citation

Cobbe, Jennifer and Norval, Chris and Singh, Jatinder, What Lies Beneath: Transparency in Online Service Supply Chains (February 6, 2020). DOI: https: 10.1080/23738871.2020.1745860, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3567801

Jennifer Cobbe (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Computer Laboratory ( email )

15 JJ Thomson Avenue
William Gates Building
Cambridge, CB3 0FD
United Kingdom

Chris Norval

University of Cambridge - Computer Laboratory ( email )

15 JJ Thomson Avenue
William Gates Building
Cambridge, CB3 0FD
United Kingdom

Jatinder Singh

University of Cambridge -- Dept. Computer Science & Technology (Computer Laboratory) ( email )

15 JJ Thomson Avenue
William Gates Building
Cambridge, CB3 0FD
United Kingdom

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