But free software is a political project.Software, broadly speaking, is a political project, and it’s one that has come to govern human existence. So far it’s done so mostly without the consent of the governed, and it operates to an intolerable degree in the interests of concentrated wealth and unaccountable power.Computation is everywhere. Less and less of it is subject to the understanding or control of its individual users. Or, for that matter, to any democratic representation or governance. Systems that define our jobs and social lives are managed by a technocratic class beholden to megacorporations and billionaires. These systems' workings are opaque, their maintenance is an unrelenting nightmare, and everyone involved is fundamentally compromised.
Viewed from this perspective [capitalism evolution], the behaviour of the digital giants looks rather different from the roseate hallucinations of Wired magazine. What one sees instead is a colonising ruthlessness of which John D Rockefeller would have been proud. First of all there was the arrogant appropriation of users’ behavioural data – viewed as a free resource, there for the taking. Then the use of patented methods to extract or infer data even when users had explicitly denied permission, followed by the use of technologies that were opaque by design and fostered user ignorance.
The first surveillance capitalists also conquered by declaration. They simply declared our private experience to be theirs for the taking, for translation into data for their private ownership and their proprietary knowledge.
For example, the idea of “data ownership” is often championed as a solution. But what is the point of owning data that should not exist in the first place?
"Fake News" is really just propaganda, and the fact that we have invented a new word for something that was there all along shows how naive and dull we are.
Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us. Once we thought of digital services as free, but now surveillance capitalists think of us as free.
It’s also hard to overlook the fact that a lot of privacy advocacy groups in the U.S. get funding from the same tech companies that would ostensibly be affected by government regulation of consumer data collection. EFF, for example, took in about $822,000 from Google, including donations from employees that are matched by the company, in fiscal 2017. CDT collected about $590,000 in donations and support from Google in 2016 and received $250,000 from Facebook last year. As for OTI, Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt co-founded and has been a significant donor to New America for years. He and his wife’s philanthropic foundation committed to $4 million in funding New America from 2016 to 2021. All of these groups maintain complete independence from their donors.
In January the European Commission is launching 14 out of a total of 15 bug bounties on Free Software projects that the EU institutions rely on.