Note — Dec 04, 2019

Oil Is the New Data

Seen in → No.105

Source →

At this point it’s pretty clear that big tech companies will do pretty much anything to boost revenu or access to markets (hello Apple in China!) so this article isn’t surprising but it’s a good read to learn some of the numbers involved in selling cloud services to big oil, as well as understanding what it’s used for, which in this case includes Chevron hoping to surveil Kazakhstani employees through their movements on site and their emails.

The market is dominated by Amazon’s cloud computing wing, Amazon Web Services (AWS), which now makes up more than half of all of Amazon’s operating income. AWS has grown fast: in 2014, its revenue was $4.6 billion; in 2019, it is set to surpass $36 billion. So many companies run on AWS that when one of its most popular services went down briefly in 2017, it felt like the entire internet stopped working. […]

This is what our Chevron partners were most keen to discuss: how to better surveil their workers. TCO had thirty or forty thousand workers on site, nearly all local Kazakhstanis. They worked on rotating shifts — twelve-hour days for two weeks at a time — to keep the oil field running around the clock. And the managers wanted to use AI/ML to keep a closer eye on them. […]
On the surface, then, Microsoft appears to be committed to fighting climate change. Google has constructed a similar reputation. But in reality, these companies are doing just-enough to keep their critics distracted while teaming up with the industry that is at the root of the climate crisis. Why go through the effort of using clean energy to power your data centers when those same data centers are being used by companies like Chevron to produce more oil?