Shoshana Zuboff on “Big Data”

Jump to Shoshana Zuboff on “Big Data”. This is an article that is well worth reading, as it tackles the state of society at the beginning of what can be dubbed a new industrial revolution, the Internet of Things, IoT (which she calls a euphemism):

“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).

She calls the scandalous facts, revealed by Edgar Snowden with a compelling name: Weapons of mass detection. Shoshana Zuboff carries on, asking what constitutes courage in our time, making reference to the fact, that one of the few courageous media spirits, Frank Schirrmacher of FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) is dead. She ends her profound analysis with an encouraging thought:

“May we, together, carry forward Frank Schirrmacher’s legacy by sharing in the author-ship of many great and beautiful new facts that reclaim the digital future as humanity’s home. Let this be our declaration.”

 In another article, she sheds light on the case at hand today, and why politics and the internet industry go hand-in-hand:

“In light of this new institutional configuration, it is ludicrous to think that Big Tech can champion our interests in privacy and freedom. It’s equally obvious that our governments are unlikely to champion consumer sovereignty by regulating or overseeing Big Tech’s intrusive excesses.  How can we expect them to regulate the companies that supply their information arsenal?

Technology is merely the Trojan horse that ushers in these new forms of secret power. The surveillance paradigm arises from a convergence of business choices and political inclinations. Technology is the camouflage, not the driver. That means our responses must be political and social. We are at the beginning of this struggle, not the end.