The owners of Capital & Labour have jostled for economic & political supremacy for the better part of a century but the new oligarchs of society are increasingly those in possession of data, big & small.
Every seven-minute interval spent on the internet across the world is likely to see at least one of those minutes spent on facebook.
This, along with what we do online for the other six minutes, is watched & collected. Matching this data with ads has helped google morph from a start up to a surveillance behemoth that is voluntarily chosen as the engine of choice for 90% of searches in Europe.
Uber & airbnb have disrupted mature business models & regulated transportation modes in ways unimaginable a decade or so ago. Twitter has circumvented traditional channels of communication & found favour amongst politicians, reporters & readers alike.
The penetration of global economies by internet giants has delivered significant political influence to these relative few with the company leaders commonly found in attendance at high level governance gatherings including the G8.
The irony of such considerable power concentrating within a few monopolistic companies thanks to the internet – a tool that was conceived as an open, free, common resource to benefit many – is unmistakable. It seems the global commons has been captured & colonised.
In the New Internationalist (July/August 2016) Tamasin Cave of the British campaign group Spinwatch was quoted as saying ‘we need to rethink how we view google. It’s not a search engine, it’s a political beast that has captured the attention of our policymakers’.
Cookies allow your internet activity to be tracked by many more companies than just google. One anecdote provided by someone who installed software to reveal which companies were tracking their internet use revealed more than 100 companies over a 36 hour period.
But it’s not just what you type into an internet search that feeds the asset base of the internet oligarchs. Keeping your smart phone with you throughout the day provides valuable insight: where you live and work, what time you stroll through a particular store and which aisles you visit. Whom you spend your time with can be tracked via the phones of each person registering with the same tower showing who you sat at a café table with. Your phone will reveal how close you live or work to a particular destination and can help deliver retail advertising directly to your palm based on proximity or shopping behaviour.
Technology allowing a ‘blind’ phone call to be sent to your number won’t be audible or appear on your call log but can reveal the location of your phone to within a metre or so.
The oligarch owners of data are collectively worth more than $100 billion.
We are the products, not the customers, of these companies. Customers purchase information about us, the products, which we readily provide for far less than it is worth in the market of information.
Throughout history, in the initial stages of what would ultimately become labour & capital domination respectively, each underestimated or failed to properly value the potential of their respective assets.
It doesn’t seem much of a stretch to say that we, collectively, fail to properly appreciate the value of the data about ourselves, our behaviour, habits etc that we knowingly & sometimes unknowingly provide in exchange for use of social networks, search engines & shopping sites.
Is there True Justice in unwittingly trading our personal identifying information in return for a supposedly ‘free’ product of convenience?
What do you think? is it a fair trade or disproportionate deal favouring the internet monopolies?
Justice doesn’t just happen.
Be Engaged. Be Informed. Be Curious.