2023 Online Commentary, Package of Columns finalist

We The Users

About the Project

Geoffrey A. Fowler’s commentary stands apart because of his relentless advocacy for the most underrepresented voice in technology: you.

Fowler’s body of work brings to light how tech’s thorniest problems as well as the gadgets we love impact us and — departing from most other tech commentary — takes readers with him on a hunt for solutions.

Perhaps your AirPods died after two years. “Is that just how technology works? No, that’s just how tech companies make more money from you,” Fowler wrote in an exposé of the gadget industry’s environmental toll. His solution: reveal the death dates built into all gadgets.

After the landmark Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Fowler pointed out that the way tens of millions of Americans use everyday Google products has suddenly become dangerous: Anything Google knows about us could be acquired by police in states where abortion is now illegal. A search for “Plan B,” a ping to Google Maps at an abortion clinic or even a message you send about taking a pregnancy test could all become criminal evidence.

In a follow-up piece almost a year later, Fowler investigated whether Google had kept its promise to delete our data. What he found was that Google was not doing it consistently.

You probably have no idea just how much Amazon knows about you and your family if you buy its ever-growing range of Echo speakers, Ring doorbells, and many other connected devices and services. So Fowler takes us on an interactive tour of Amazon’s dream smart home. The impact is visceral, from zooming in on detailed reporting about what exactly each product knows to zooming out on the surveillance nightmare these products create.

The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, but Fowler pulls no punches in his critique of Amazon with this online-first innovative journalism.