Selected links to materials critiquing the morally dubious and exploitative nature of the business models of “online” software companies from places like Silicon Valley, as well as a few relevant quotes. While the latest buzz in the mass media is about privacy, that is really only one relatively small part of a larger set of issues about exploitative conduct.
“Facebook’s Latest Data Breach Reveals Silicon Valley’s Fortunes Are Built on Pilfering Privacy” (see also “Facebook Must Face Class Action Over Facial Recognition, Judge Rules” and “74 Percent of Facebook Users Don’t Realize the Site Collects Their Interests to Target Ads, Pew Survey Says”)
“Addiction and Microtargeting: How ‘Social’ Networks Expose us to Manipulation” and “The Binge Breaker” and Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked and “Advertising and Academia Are Controlling Our Thoughts. Didn’t You Know?”
“In communicative capitalism, capitalist productivity derives from its expropriation and exploitation of communicative processes.
“If we are honest, we have to admit that there is actually no such thing as social media. Digital media is class media. Networked communication does not eliminate hierarchy, as we believed, in entrenches it as it uses our own choices against us.
“Dispossession, rather than happening all at once, is an ongoing process. No one will deny the ongoingness of data dispossession. Sometimes it is blatant: the announcement that our call will be monitored for quality assurance, the injunctions to approve Apple’s privacy changes again or the necessity of renewing passwords and credit card information. Sometimes the ongoingness is more subtle; in maps, GPS signals, video surveillance, and the RFID tags on and in items we purchase. And sometimes the ongoingness is completely beyond our grasp, as when datasets are combined and mined so as to give states and corporations actionable data for producing products, patterns, and policies based on knowing things about our interrelations one to another that we do not know ourselves. Here the currents of lives as they are lived are frozen into infinitely separable, countable, and combinatory data-points.
“Approached in terms of class struggle, big data looks like further escalation of capital’s war against labor.”
“[Adapting a statement of Lenin regarding central banks,] can we also say that ‘without the World Wide Web socialism would be impossible . . . . Our task is here merely to lop off what capitalistically mutilates this excellent apparatus, to make it even bigger, even more democratic, even more comprehensive?” (p. 293)
“However, does capitalism really provide the ‘natural’ frame of relations of production for the digital universe? Is there not also, in the World Wide Web, an explosive potential for capitalism itself? Is not the lesson of the Microsoft monopoly precisely the Leninist one: instead of fighting this monopoly through the state apparatus (remember the court-ordered splitting up of the Microsoft Corporation), would it not be more ‘logical’ simply to nationalize it, making it freely accessible? So today, I am thus tempted to paraphrase Lenin’s well-known slogan ‘Socialism = electrification + the power of the soviets’: ‘Socialism = free access to the Internet + the power of the soviets.’ (The second element is crucial, since it specifies the only social organization within which the Internet can realize its liberating potential; without it, we would have a new version of crude technological determinism.” (p. 294).
For more watered-down, less practical alternatives to nationalization, see “Facebook: A Cooperative Transformation” and “Socialized Media” and “To Break Google’s Monopoly on Search, Make Its Index Public”