Note — Jul 05, 2020

We’re Losing the War Against Surveillance Capitalism because We Let Big Tech Frame the Debate

Good piece on the systemic aspect of privacy, what privacy actually is (vs personal information), and on how even those “with nothing to hide” are enmeshed in the repercussions. Instead of haggling and negotiating details of what can and can’t be done with data and to which degree, the author’s preservasionist approach starts from the very basic principle that “personal information may not be bought or sold.” You can still personally share with companies to enable services to you but it stops there, no selling or buying further down the line.

Sidebar: Note the first quote below about personal agency in choosing where data goes (or cancelling your Facebook for example). It’s very similar to the failed framing of acting on climate change and the environment by changing lightbulbs or recycling. It helps, but political, systemic decisions are the only real ways to change things.

Yet this very neoliberal notion of personal agency fails to acknowledge the role these services play in modern life. Being asked to resist only punishes those of us struggling to preserve our privacy. To imagine a world where privacy is preserved we need to explore what privacy truly means and to name it, for to name something is to own it. […]

But the stakes are much higher than you may realize, for privacy is truly our civil rights struggle in the 21st century. Privacy violations are a gateway to identity-based targeting, which singles out individuals by race, religion, or gender identity. Yet with over 1 billion, mostly apathetic users, fighting Google (or Facebook or Experian for that matter) may move you to turn your despair into resignation. […]

Privacy in this case means freedom to engage in conversation or thought without unwanted or unknown surveillance. […]

Yet now that technology-mediated services have an outsize ability to shape culture at large, the malicious use of this same personal information threatens to undermine every advance made by modern liberal society. This is why I call privacy the last line of defense in the battle for civil liberties.

More → Is it time for a ‘Digital New Deal’ to rein in Big Tech?
“[L]ooking at the broader political economy of so many businesses struggling and very large tech platforms doing so well, that a rebalancing is due. If you look at some of the statistics on level of profits, revenue generated by Big Tech firms versus the rest of the economy, it’s remarkable the divergence there.”