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Shoshanna Zuboff contemplating Big Data


*Hmmm, there are some rather familiar sentiments here.



"Let’s see if we can use these ideas to understand some things about „big data.” The analysis of massive data sets began as a way to reduce uncertainty by discovering the probabilities of future patterns in the behavior of people and systems. Now the focus has quietly shifted to the commercial  monetization of knowledge about current behavior as well as influencing and shaping emerging behavior for future revenue streams. The opportunity is to analyze, predict, and shape, while profiting from each point in the value chain.

"There are many sources from which these new flows are generated: sensors, sur-veillance cameras, phones, satellites, street view, corporate and government databases (from banks, credit card, credit rating, and telecom companies) are just a few.

"The most significant component is what some call “data exhaust.” This is user-generated data harvested from the haphazard ephemera of everyday life, especially the tiniest details of our online engagements— captured, datafied ( translated into machine-readable code), abstracted, aggregated, packaged, sold, and analyzed. This includes eve-rything from Facebook likes and Google searches to tweets, emails, texts, photos, songs, and videos, location and movement, purchases, every click, misspelled word, every page view, and more.

"The largest and most successful „big data“ company is Google, because it is the most visited website and therefore has the largest data exhaust. AdWords, Google’s algo-rithmic method for targeting online advertising, gets its edge from access to the most data exhaust.  Google gives away products like “search” in order to increase the amount of data exhaust it has available to harvest for its customers— its advertisers and other data buyers.  To quote a popular 2013 book on „big data“, “every action a user performs is considered a signal to be analyzed and fed back into the system.”  Facebook,Linked In, Yahoo, Twitter, and thousands of companies and apps  do something similar. On the strength of these capabilities, Google’s ad revenues were $21 billion in 2008 and climbed to over $50 billion in 2013. By February 2014, Google’s $400 billion dollar market value had edged out Exxon for the #2 spot in market capitalization.


"What can an understanding of declarations reveal about “big data?” I begin by suggesting that „big data“ is a big euphemism. As Orwell  once observed, euphemisms are used in politics, war, and business “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”. Euphemisms like “enhanced interrogation methods” or “ethnic cleansing” distract us from the ugly truth behind the words.

"The ugly truth here is that much of „big data“ is plucked from our lives without our knowledge or informed consent. It is the fruit of a rich array of surveillance practices designed to be invisible and undetectable as we make our way across the virtual and real worlds.  The pace of these developments is accelerating: drones, Google Glass, wearable technologies, the Internet of Everything  (which is perhaps the biggest euphemism of all).

"These surveillance practices represent profound harms—material, psychological, social, and political— that we are only beginning to understand and codify, largely because of the secret nature of these operations and how long it’s taken for us to understand them. As the recent outcry over the British National Health Service’s plan to sell patient data to insurance companies underscored, one person’s „big data“ is another person’s stolen goods.  The neutral technocratic euphemism, „big data“, can  more accurately be labeled “big contraband” or “big pirate booty.”  My interest here is less in  the details of these surveillance operations than in how they have been allowed to stand and what can be done about it.


"The answer to how these practices have been allowed to stand is straightforward: Declaration.  We never said they could take these things from us. They simply declared them to be theirs for the taking—- by taking them. All sorts of institutional facts were established with the words and deeds of this declaration.

"Users were constituted as an unpaid workforce, whether slaves or volunteers is something for reasonable people to debate.  Our output was asserted as “exhaust” — waste without value—that it might be expropriated without resistance.  A wasteland is easily claimed and colonized. Who would protest the transformation of rubbish into value?  Because the new data assets were produced through surveillance, they constitute a new asset class that I call “surveillance assets.”  Surveillance assets, as we’ve seen, attract significant capital and investment that I suggest we call “surveillance capital.”  The declaration thus established a radically disembedded and extractive variant of information capitalism that can I label  “surveillance capitalism.”

"This new market form entails wholly new moral and social complexities along with new risks. For example, if the declarations that established surveillance capitalism are challenged, we might discover that „big data“ are larded with illicit surveillance assets who’s ownership is subject to legal contest and liability.  In an  alternative social and legal regime, surveillance assets could  become toxic assets strewn through the world’s data flows in much the same way that bad mortgage debt was baked into financial instruments that abruptly lost value when their status function was challenged by new facts.

"What’s key to understand here is that this logic of “accumulation by surveillance” is a wholly new breed.  In the past, populations were the source of employees and consumers. Under surveillance capitalism, populations are not to be employed and served.  Instead, they are to be harvested for behavioral data…."

You can’t think about thinking unless you think about thinking about something.

Seymour Papert


Norway’s best architecture firm designs the world’s best money.



(Source: wmougayar)

California cops don’t need warrants to surveil with drones →

Golden State’s governor vetoes privacy law already adopted in 10 other states.

There’s a temptation within many newspapers to believe that the only problem the web has created is how to get all that excellent journalism to readers most efficiently, and to see the social web as merely a distribution mechanism or PR gesture. Engaging with readers is much more than that — it’s the key to developing a new kind of interactive, two-way journalism, and that journalism may ultimately be the only kind that survives.


Fake ‘NYPD’ drone signs hit New York

From Waging Nonviolence:

Several weeks ago, a 28-year-old Army vet, who had worked with drones during two tours in Iraq and is now a radical art student in New York, came up with a creative act of protest to raise awareness around the growing use of drones domestically by police forces across the country.

According to an article in last week’s New Yorker, over the course of several nights, the veteran (who remains anonymous) and a few friends posted eleven unusual street signs around New York City, which is apparently investigating using drones as a law enforcement tool.

Designed to look exactly like official street signs, the fake NYPD signs had several different messages: “ATTENTION: Drone Activity in Progress,” or “ATTENTION: Local Statutes Enforced by Drones,” or “ATTENTION: Authorized Drone Strike Zone, 8am-8pm, Including Sunday.” […]

[read more] [via @edyson] [New Yorker] [Images by Esther Dyson & ???]

(Source: futurescope, via thoriumdirigible)

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