Search Mailing List Archives

Limit search to: Subject & Body Subject Author
Sort by: Reverse Sort
Limit to: All This Week Last Week This Month Last Month
Select Date Range     through    

[liberationtech] Shoshanna Zuboff: Dark Google

hc voigt sozwiss at
Thu May 1 09:14:16 PDT 2014

Hash: SHA1

there's a 'reply' by Benjamin Bratton making the rounds on fb:

 This piece by Shoshanna Zubof is just bad in multiple dimensions at
once. For that it neatly summarizes the warble of several of the weakest
and sickest old dogs within Google Studies. There are literally a
million reasons that the geopolitics of Google needs to be
front-and-center debate, bloody and relentless. Articles like this do
nothing but cheapen that debate with ignorance, sloppy and fearful
analogies, and tired conventional platitudes calling themselves courage.
A Top 12 of useless tropes, in rough order of their appearance in
Zubof’s article.

(1) Taking what Eric Schmidt says in Op-Ed's at face value as
representing Google's strategy, or worse as representing Google's
geopolitical and geoeconomic significance, power, or danger.

(2) Insisting that the author's self-pronounced confusion as to the
history or mutability of the Internet is proof of its insidiousness,
unaccountability and over-determination by current actors.

(3) Using a mish-mash of trigger words like 'colonize' and
'self-determination' without any need to link these to the presumed
contexts, and one assumes, giving no real thought to how (quote) “the
whole topography of cyberspace” does and does not resemble other kinds
of social, political, economic or cultural geography, let alone their
contentious histories.

(4) Utter misrepresentation of the relationship between Google and the
USA Federal Gov't, especially the NSA, including taking quotes out of
context to ventriloquize inverted meaning (the McConnell quote here was
about China hacking Google's servers to track dissidents, not PRISM).
Including patently absurd links between disparate events (such as Street
View inadvertent capture of public wi-fi addresses = NSA hacking patrol
because Google reported Chinese hacking to the NSA in 2010). Or how
about this one: NSA tracked users with some insidious new secret
technique called “cookies,” a weird new trick they learned in conspiracy
with Google.

(5) Blaming the disillusionment and disenchantment of their own earlier
naive and shallow presumptions about some intrinsically liberating
nature of the Internet on Google's data and advertising business model.

(6) Conflating Google with all other Cloud platforms, especially
Facebook, as one big entity with apparently deliberate ignorance of or
disinterest in significant distinctions.

(7) Insisting that things we do know about Google and PRISM (such as
their continuing pushback and resistance to court orders, their
subsidized development of user tools to directly circumvent government
surveillance, such as uproxy and google dns) are meaningless, but
indicating the opacity of all things we don’t know about any possible
dirty dealings is demonstrable proof of their abyssal darkness.

(8) Conflating user feedback and pushback regarding strange and
disturbing new forms of data transparency with some deliberate and
explicitly criminal mischief on Google’s part. Including
misrepresentation of what practices were and are secret and which are
merely unusual and controversial.

(9) Demanding that the author’s confusion about the ambiguous social
logics of secrecy and privacy in a network society is proof of an
innocence not merely disenchanted but one deliberately stolen by bad
actors. Demanding that the author’s inability to articulate a coherent a
political description of Cloud-based social systems is demonstrable
proof, not just of a general confusion, but once again of Google’s
willful violence.

(10) Offering laughably obvious predictions about Google’s future
intensions, including “data mining” (whoa, no way) and linking “online”
services with “offline” physical systems (like cars, robotics, and
houses) …(um, no shit). Demanding that because the exact terms of the
future are not known, then it must prove “secrecy” (in this case ‘bad
secrecy’) darkness and danger.

(11) Conflating Google with all of neoliberalism.

(12) Demanding that the only way to adjudicate these new Googly
conundrums is with new language and analytical tools. Next 5 sentences
then repeat the oldest and most conventional calls for general
well-being through measured oversight.

- -- 

hc voigt :: ::
+43 699 19586738 :: kellerabteil at :: ::
13EA 7E87 C4DB 04CF 50C2 8BAF CC8A 6F31 0D31 AC6E :: :: ::

Yosem Companys schrieb:
> 30.04.2014
> Dark Google
> We witness the rise of a new absolute power. Google transfers its 
> radical politics from cyberspace to reality. It will earn its money
> by knowing, manipulating, controlling the reality and cutting it into
> the tiniest pieces.
> Recall those fabled frogs happy in the magic pond. Playful. 
> Distracted. The water temperature slowly rises, but the frogs don’t 
> notice. By the time it reaches the boiling point, it’s too late to 
> leap to safety.  We are as frogs in the digital waters, and Springer 
> CEO Mathias Dopfner has just become our frog town crier.  Mr. 
> Dopfner’s "Why We Fear Google" (a 
> response to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s open letter, "A 
> Chance for Growth" warns of danger on 
> the move: "The temperatures are rising fast.”  If his cry of alarm 
> scares you, that’s good. Why?
> First, because there is a dawning awareness that Google is forging a 
> new kingdom on the strength of a different kind of power –– 
> ubiquitous, hidden, and unaccountable. If successful, the dominion
> of this kingdom will exceed anything the world has known. The water
> is close to boiling, because Google understands this statement more 
> profoundly than we do.
> Second, because accessing the Web and the wider Internet have become 
> essential for effective social participation across much of the
> world. A BBC poll conducted in 2010 found that 79% of people in 26
> countries considered access to the Internet to be a fundamental human
> right. We rely on Google’s tools as we search, learn, connect,
> communicate, and transact. The chilling irony is that we’ve become
> dependent on the Internet to enhance our lives, but the very tools we
> use there threaten to remake society in ways that we do not
> understand and have not chosen.
> Something new and dangerous
> If there is a single word to describe Google, it is "absolute." The 
> Britannica defines absolutism as a system in which "the ruling power 
> is not subject to regularized challenge or check by any other
> agency." In ordinary affairs, absolutism is a moral attitude in which
> values and principles are regarded as unchallengeable and universal.
> There is no relativism, context-dependence, or openness to change.
> Six years ago I asked Eric Schmidt what corporate innovations Google 
> was putting in place to ensure that its interests were aligned with 
> its end users. Would it betray their trust?  Back then his answer 
> stunned me. He and Google’s founders control the super-voting class
> B stock. This allows them, he explained, to make decisions without 
> regard to short-term pressure from Wall Street. Of course, it also 
> insulates them from every other kind of influence. There was no 
> wrestling with the creation of an inclusive, trustworthy, and 
> transparent governance system.  There was no struggle to 
> institutionalize scrutiny and feedback.  Instead Schmidt’s answer
> was the quintessence of absolutism: "trust me; I know best." At that 
> moment I knew I was in the presence of something new and dangerous 
> whose effects reached beyond narrow economic contests and into the 
> heart of everyday life.
> Google kills Innovation
> Mr. Schmidt’s open letter to Europe shows evidence of such
> absolutism. Democratic oversight is characterized as "heavy-handed
> regulation." The "Internet", "Web", and "Google" are referenced
> interchangeably, as if Goggle’s interests stand for the entire Web
> and Internet. That’s a magician’s sleight of hand intended to
> distract from the real issue. Google’s absolutist pursuit of its
> interests is now regarded by many as responsible for the Web’s fading
> prospects as an open information platform in which participants can
> agree on rules, rights, and choice.
> Schmidt warns that were the E.U. to oppose Google’s practices,
> Europe risks becoming "an innovation desert."  Just the opposite is
> more likely true. Thanks in part to Google’s exquisite genius in the 
> science of surveillance,  the audacity with which it has
> expropriated users’ rights to privacy, and the aggressive tactics of
> the NSA, people are losing trust in the entire digital medium. It is
> this loss of trust that stands to kill innovation. To make some sense
> of our predicament, let’s take a fresh look at how we got here, the
> nature of the threats we face, and the stakes for the future.
> Google Colonizes a Blank Area and the NSA Follows
> In his extended essay, "The Loneliness of the Dying", the
> sociologist Norbert Elias observes that "dying is at present a
> largely unformed situation, a blank area on the social map."  Such
> "blanks" occur when earlier meanings and practices no longer apply,
> but new ones have yet to be created.  Google’s rapid rise to power
> was possible because it ventured into this kind of blank area. It
> colonized the blank space at high speed without challenge or
> impediment. Google did not ask permission, seek consensus,  elicit
> opinion, or even make visible its rules and ramparts. How did this
> occur?
> Breaking the Rules of the "Old World"
> The first key ingredient was demand. During the second half of the 
> twentieth century, more education and complex social experience 
> produced a new kind of individual. No longer content to conform to
> the mass, more people sought their own unique paths to
> self-determination. It was a period of growing frustration with
> existing institutions that were still oriented toward the mass
> society of an earlier time. People wanted to reinvent social
> experiences in ways that expressed their new sensibilities. They
> wanted information on their own terms, not controlled by the old
> norms, professional fortresses, and business models.
> The arrival of the Internet provided a new way forward. As web 
> browsers and search tools became available, the new individuals
> rushed onto the Web with their pent up demands for genuine voice and 
> connection. Information access and communication could bypass old 
> boundaries and be reconfigured to suit any need.  Here finally was 
> experience  how I want it, where I want it, when I want it. There
> was a presumption that the adversarial rules from the "old world" of
> 20th century commerce did not apply. This was a new "networked
> public sphere," as legal scholar Yochai Benkler called it. There was
> no looking back.
> Google and other companies rushed into the new space too, and for a 
> while it seemed that they were aligned with the popular expectations 
> of trust and collaboration. But as pressures for profit increased, 
> Google, Facebook, and others shifted to an advertising model that 
> required the covert capture of user data as the currency for ad
> sales. Profits rapidly materialized and motivated ever more ruthless
> and determined data collection. The new science of data mining
> exploded, driven in part by Google’s spectacular success.
> Fighting the Law
> The whole topography of cyberspace then began to morph as Google and 
> Facebook shifted away from the ethos of the public web, while 
> carefully retaining its rhetoric. They began to develop a new logic
> of operations in what had until then been a blank area. The new zone 
> didn’t resemble the bricks and mortar world of commerce, but neither 
> did it follow the norms of the open web. This confused and
> distracted users.  In fact, the firms were developing a wholly new
> business logic that incorporated elements of the conventional logic
> of corporate capitalism –especially its adversarialism toward end
> consumers – along with  elements from the new Internet world –
> especially its intimacy. The outcome was the elaboration of  a new
> commercial logic based on hidden surveillance. Most people did not
> understand that they and their friends were being tracked, parsed,
> and mined without their knowledge or consent.
> A steady stream of eruptions from the new zone provides evidence of 
> this new logic of operations. For example, Google faces a series of 
> contentious lawsuits over its secret scanning of all Gmail,
> including mail from non-Gmail accounts.  It first tried to conceal
> the scanning procedures in 2010 and only fully acknowledged them
> after four years of public outcry. In one „potentially explosive”
> lawsuit Google acknowledged that it unilaterally scans millions of
> email messages sent or received by  the 30 million student users of
> the the company’s Apps for Education tools. In 2012 Google face more
> outrage and lawsuits when it announced  that it would consolidate
> data about its users from all its services without any mechanism of
> consent.
> Google Street View launched in 2007 is another example of the 
> company’s absolutism. It didn’t ask if it could photograph  homes
> for public consumption, it just took what it wanted and waited for
> any resistance to exhaust itself in defeat. Ultimately Street View
> would face protests and restrictions in many countries across the EU
> as well as Japan, Greece, and Canada.
> The Shared Interest of NSA and Google
> By 2010 the German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection
> announced that Google’s Street View operation also camouflaged a
> covert data sweep from users of private Wi-Fi networks. He called for
> an immediate halt to Street View in Germany and erasure of all
> illegally captured data. Other countries followed with their own
> investigations and prosecutions.
> The Electronic Privacy and Information Center has consistently
> pressed the case. It maintains a detailed overview of the worldwide
> outrage, protests, investigations, litigation, and settlements in
> response to Google Street View and its secret data gathering
> tactics.
> In 2010, Google established a partnership with the NSA that added to 
> the complexity and opacity of operations in the new zone. The 
> ostensible trigger for this public-private alliance was Google’s 
> discovery that the Chinese had hacked its infrastructure. However,
> the NSA already had a keen interest in all things Google. It
> struggled with the demands of tracking objects and discerning
> patterns in Internet time. The NSA was actively developing  the same
> tools and capabilities that allowed Google to search and analyze
> masses of data at warp speed.
> A New Business Model
> The U.S. Justice Department kept the partnership secret,  but news 
> reports, court documents, and eventually the Snowden leaks reveals a 
> picture of interdependence and  collaboration. As former director of 
> the NSA Mike McConnell put it, "Recent reports of possible
> partnership between Google and the government point to the kind of
> joint efforts -- and shared challenges -- that we are likely to see
> in the future...Cyberspace knows no borders, and our defensive
> efforts must be similarly seamless."  The NSA developed its own
> software to mimic the Google infrastructure, uses Google “cookies” to
> identify targets for hacking, and widely accesses emails and other
> data through the PRISM program, the costs of which it covered for
> Google and other Internet firms.
> Google and Facebook had led the way in colonizing the new zone with
> a commercial logic based on surveillance. Now the Google-NSA
> alliance added new layers and capabilities, as well as a complex
> public-private dimension that remains poorly understood.  Whatever
> the details might be, the new logic spread to other companies and
> applications, driving the growth and success of operations in the new
> zone.
> Despite this growth, it’s been difficult to grasp the changing
> social relations that are produced in the new zone. associated with
> Google’s new commercial logic.  There are two reasons for this.
> First, the companies move faster than individuals or democratic
> public institutions can follow.  Second, its operations are designed
> to be undetectable.  It’s this later point that I want to focus on
> for a moment.
> Google’s Radical Politics
> We often hear that our privacy rights have been eroded and secrecy
> has grown. But that way of framing things obscures what’s really at
> stake. Privacy hasn’t been eroded. It’s been expropriated.  The
> difference in framing provides new ways to define the problem and
> consider solutions.
> In the conventional telling, privacy and secrecy are treated as 
> opposites. In fact, one is a cause and the other is an effect. 
> Exercising our right to privacy leads to choice. We can choose to
> keep something secret or to share it, but we only have that choice
> when we first have privacy.  Privacy rights confer decision rights.
> Privacy lets us decide where we want to be on the spectrum between
> secrecy and transparency in each situation.  Secrecy is the effect;
> privacy is the cause.
> I suggest that privacy rights have not been eroded, if anything 
> they’ve multiplied.  The difference now is how these rights are 
> distributed. Instead of many people having some privacy rights,
> nearly all the rights have been concentrated in the hands of a few.
> On the one hand, we have lost the ability to choose what we keep
> secret, and what we share. On the other, Google, the NSA, and others
> in the new zone have accumulated privacy rights. How?  Most of their
> rights have come from taking ours without asking.  But they also
> manufactured new rights for themselves, the way a forger might print
> currency.  They assert a right to privacy with respect to their
> surveillance tactics and then exercise their choice to keep those
> tactics secret.
> A pre-modern absolutism
> Finally - and this is key - the new concentration of privacy rights
> is institutionalized in the automatic undetectable functions of a
> global infrastructure that most of the world’s people also happen to
> think is essential for basic social participation. This turns
> ordinary life into the daily renewal of a 21st century Faustian
> pact.
> It is difficult to appreciate the global reach and implications of 
> this rights grab.  Leaving aside whether or not it crosses the 
> threshold of "revolution," it is a form of radical politics that has 
> engineered a significant redistribution of power in just a few years 
> based on the. Expropriation of widely held privacy rights and the 
> choices they entail. This has been accomplished through a unique 
> assembly of public and private actors and interests that operate 
> outside the auspices of legitimate democratic mechanisms. In some 
> respects, the social relations that emerge from this rights grab are 
> best compared to that of  a pre-modern absolutism.
> We have been caught off guard. Neither we as individuals nor our 
> public institutions have a clear grasp of these new relationships, 
> their implications, the relevant paths to action, or the goals to 
> achieve. There are good reasons for so much confusion and dismay.
> The dynamics I describe have occurred in a blank area that is not
> easily captured by our existing social, economic, and political
> categories. They extend far beyond the realm of economics and the old
> debates about business monopolies and competitive practices. The new
> business operations reach beyond our wallets into the very essence of
> our lives. They elude our mental models and defy our rational
> expectations to such an extent that we end up questioning our own
> witness and powers of evaluation. Unfortunately, the situation is
> about to get worse as Google’s radical politics spread from
> cyberspace to the real world.
> Reality is the Next Big Thing
> What is Google up to next?  We know it’s secret, but here is how it 
> looks to me. Google is no longer content with the data business.
> It’s next step is to build an even more radical "reality business."
> Google sees "reality” as the next big thing that it can carve up and
> sell. In the data business, the payoff is in data patterns that help
> target ads. In the reality business, the payoff is in shaping and 
> communicating real life behaviors of people and things in millions
> of ways that drive revenue to Google. The business model is expanding
> to encompass the digital you as well as the actual you. The scene is 
> changing from virtual reality to, well, reality. Unsurprisingly, the 
> two entities at the vanguard of this new wave are Google and the
> NSA.
> The "reality business” reflects a shift in the frontier of data 
> science from data mining to "reality mining.”  This new approach was 
> pioneered over the last decade at the MIT Media Lab. Now its
> migrating to military intelligence and commercial applications.  In a
> 2011 paper,  MIT Professor Alex Pentland explains the value of
> reality mining. "We must reinvent societies’ systems within a
> control framework.” He notes that this will require exponential
> growth in data about human behavior.” In another paper, Pentland
> explains that the proliferation of sensors, mobile phones, and other
> data capture devices will provide the "eyes and ears” of a
> "world-spanning living organism.”  Where do people eat? Work? Hang
> out?” - Distributed sensor networks,” he observes, "will provide a
> God’s eye view of ourselves. For the first time, we can precisely map
> the behavior of large numbers of people as they go about their daily
> lives.”
> The NSA and other intelligence agencies are already  using “pattern
> of life analysis” to identify threats, including those that might 
> originate within the organization as they hope to head off the next 
> Edward Snowden.  A range of software companies, some spun off from
> or funded by the intelligence agencies, provide capabilities in 
> patterns-of-life activity and activity-based intelligence analysis.
> Reality is the new product
> Google’s ambitions in this new arena appear to be limitless. In 2012 
> Brin/Page/Schmidt hired computer scientist Ray Kurzweil to lead 
> engineering. Kurzweil, a brilliant inventor,  is a proselytizer for 
> the idea that computers can develop consciousness. "Future machines 
> will be human,” he wrote, "Most of the intelligence of our 
> civilization will ultimately be nonbiological."  Kurzweil wants to 
> turn “the next decade’s ‘unrealistic’ visions into reality” at
> Google. The firm has purchased most of the top machine learning and
> robotics companies to build what has been described as the "greatest
> artificial intelligence laboratory on earth.” It paid richly for a
> company that produces high altitude drones as well as Nest Labs, a
> firm at the forefront of smart devices for the home and considered
> essential in the new Internet of Things.
> All this suggests that Google is building capabilities even more 
> ambitious than reality "mining”. The aim is not merely the God’s eye 
> view, but the God’s eye power to shape and control reality. Google’s 
> glasses, wearables, or self-driving cars have a clear purpose: to 
> inform on where you’ve been, and where you are, and to influence
> where you’re going. As one expert has suggested, third parties could
> pay for programming that drives the car sends you to their
> restaurant,  store or political rally .
> There are vast opportunities for similar reality mining and shaping 
> through the Internet of Things. This refers to the growing network
> of smart sensors and Internet enabled devices intended as an
> intelligent infrastructure for all objects and even bodies. From your
> baby’s diapers, to your refrigerator, heating system, mattress,
> lights, walls,coffee mug, and artificial knee ––this will be the
> smart neural network in which you breathe, eat, sleep, travel, and
> work.  It will perform infinite configurations of actions,
> observations, suggestions, communications, and interventions all
> geared to a new product category: reality. Google and others will
> make money knowing, manipulating, controlling, slicing, and dicing
> all of it.
> Is Reality for Sale?
> To make sense of this big puzzle, it helps to have some historical 
> perspective. There are two useful ideas for us in the work of 
> historian Karl Polanyi. He described the rise of a new human 
> conception: the self-regulating market economy.  He saw that the 
> market economies of the 19th and 20th centuries depended upon three 
> astonishing mental inventions.  He called them "fictions". The first 
> was that human life can be subordinated to market dynamics and be 
> reborn as „labor.” Second,  nature can be subordinated and reborn as 
> "real estate." Third, that purchasing power can be reborn as
> "money.” The very possibility of industrial capitalism depended upon
> the creation of  these  three critical  "fictional commodities.”
> Life, nature, and exchange had to be turned into things that could
> be profitably bought and sold.
> Google brings us to the precipice of a new development in the scope
> of the market economy. A fourth fictional commodity is emerging as a 
> dominant characteristic of market dynamics in the 21st century. 
> "Reality" is about to undergo the same kind of fictional 
> transformation and be reborn as "behavior."  This includes the 
> behavior of  creatures, their bodies, and their things. It includes 
> actual behavior and data about behavior. It is the world-spanning 
> organism and all the tiniest elements within it.
> Polanyi understood that the pure unimpeded operations of  a 
> self-regulating of the market were profoundly destructive. Society 
> required    countermeasures to avoid such danger. He called this the 
> "double movement":  "a network of measures and policies...integrated 
> into powerful institutions designed to check the action of the
> market relative to labor, land, and money." Regulation, legislation, 
> democratic oversight...these are the critical responses necessary to 
> protect society from  a downward spiral. Anticipating the century to 
> come,  he urged the strengthening of the double movement, that
> "every increase in integration in society should thus be accompanied
> by an increase of freedom...the strengthening of the rights of the 
> individual in society.”
> Europe’s Task
> This returns us to our starting point. Eric Schmidt and Mathias 
> Döpfners controversy in the F.A.Z.  is only the beginning of a 
> disruption that will shake industry, society and citizens. It is a 
> plea for the primacy, urgency, and necessity of a new double
> movement. It must be stronger, more confident, and more deeply
> principled than we have yet seen. It must provide a counterweight to
> a dangerous new absolutism that relies on pervasive, secret,
> unaccountable power.
> We are beyond the realm of economics here. This is not merely a 
> conversation about free  markets; it’s a conversation about free 
> people.
> It’s an urgent new public conversation that can’t be reduced to 20th 
> century technical debates about Google’s monopoly status or 
> competitive practices. We tend to revert to these old categories in 
> the absence of ready language and law that can help us discern the 
> full implications of what is taking shape. But such specialized 
> professional arguments shift the Google debate from the realm of 
> everyday life and ordinary people to the arcane interests of 
> economists and bureaucrats. They obscure the fact that the issues
> have shifted from monopolies of products or services to monopolies
> of rights: rights to privacy and rights to reality.  These new forms
> of power, poorly understood except by their own practitioners,
> threaten the sovereignty of the democratic social contract.
> We are powerful too. Our demands for self-determination are not
> easily extinguished.  We made Google, perhaps by loving it too much.
> We can unmake it, if we must. The challenge is to understand what is
> at stake and how quickly things are moving. The need is to come
> together in our diversity to preserve a future in which many visions
> can thrive, not just one –– Where many rights can flourish, not just
> some.
> Things are moving fast. This is why the world now looks to the E.U.
> - not to Google - to reverse the growing menace of absolutism and
> the monopoly of rights. The EU can stand for the double movement. It
> can represent the future and assert the dominion of  democratic
> rights and the principles of a fair marketplace. These are the
> precious victories of a centuries-long struggle, and we dare not
> abandon them now.
> The author
> Shoshana Zuboff is the author of The Summons: Our Fight for the Soul 
> of an Information Civilization(forthcoming, 2015). She is the
> Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration (retired)
> at the Harvard Business School and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman
> Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School.
> @shoshanazuboff
Version: GnuPG/MacGPG2 v2.0.17 (Darwin)
Comment: GPGTools -
Comment: Using GnuPG with Mozilla -


More information about the liberationtech mailing list