“A Chinese-Style Digital Dystopia Isn't As Far Away As We Think”
Matt Stoller, Buzzfeed, June 27, 2018
We accept price discrimination all the time; going to the movies and getting a senior discount is price discrimination. But in that case, the decision of how to discriminate is done by class; it is publicly posted; and everyone accepts that, in this case, seniors get a discount. It is a public decision to discriminate.
Discriminating on an individual level is different and allows for powerful exploitation and manipulation of the citizen. In areas with first-degree price discrimination, like car insurance or credit cards, there are often gender- or race-based pricing choices. With increasing datafication of society, we can see this increasingly organized to the level of the individual.
An airline could, for instance, analyze your email for the words “death in the family” and “travel,” look at your credit limit, and then offer you a price based on this information. Or imagine a group of companies putting together a common list of troublemakers, perhaps negative online reviewers or commenters or consumers who frequently return items. All of a sudden, for no obvious reason, someone who returns an item to one store might find that prices on a host of socially [essential] goods have [gone] up.
Corporations generally deny they do anything like this or even that they can. But …
We are now in a totally unregulated world of lawless web giants who operate as the core infrastructure for our society. They can use their data and power to discriminate and exploit, and the strategy now for companies like AT&T is to emulate them, or die. And the deep links that intelligence agencies have with these giants suggest that this power can, with a flip of a few switches, be easily weaponized by the state.
The Blender Foundation, which supports the development, distribution, and use of free and open-source 3D animation tools, has maintained a YouTube channel since 2008, to exhibit some of its users' achievements and to provide educational videos and recordings of conference talks.
In keeping with the Foundation's non-profit status and its interest in promoting works that are available under free licenses, this YouTube channel is ad-free. The Blender Foundation has not tried to monetize it in any way, despite its popularity (or perhaps because of the popularity it enjoys because it is ad-free).
Now Google is insisting that the channel run ads and sign up with its payment scheme. Since the Blender Foundation has refused, YouTube has now blocked the channel and cut off access to all of the content.
“YouTube Blocks Blender Videos Worldwide”
Francesco Siddi and Ton Roosendaal, Blender Foundation, June 19, 2018
If you packed away your Elf on the Shelf surveillance kit with the Christmas decorations, but still feel the need to let your kids know that they have no privacy whatever, you'll be relieved to know that now any religious holiday can be used as a pretext for spying on the little ones. For Easter, there's “Peep on a Perch,” a plushie shaped like a marshmallow Peep, sold with a book that explains life in a Total Information Awareness regime to toddlers.
“Peep on a Perch (Peeps)”
Random House, February 13, 2018
Start a new Easter tradition!
No word yet on availability dates for “Golem on the Gueridon” (Yom Kippur), “Hajji on the Highboy” (Ramadan), and “Aillen on the Ottoman” (Samhain).