“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.
We have now reached the point at which it is foolish to register at most corporate Web sites, not just because they will send spam to the e-mail address you provide, but also because registration implies acceptance of the site's terms of service.
“Registering for Things on the Internet Is Dangerous These Days”
Chris Siebenmann, Chris's Wiki, May 24, 2018
In the old days, terms of service were not all that dangerous and often existed only to cover the legal rears of the service you were registering with. Today, this is very much not the case … Most ToSes will have you agreeing that the service can mine as much data from you as possible and sell it to whoever it wants. Beyond that, many ToSes contain additional nasty provisions like forced arbitration, perpetual broad copyright licensing for whatever you let them get their hands on (including eg your profile picture), and so on. …
The corollary to this is that you should assume that anyone who requires registration before giving you access to things when this is not actively required by how their service works is trying to exploit you. For example, “register to see this report” should be at least a yellow and perhaps a red warning sign. My reaction is generally that I probably don't really need to read it after all.
The people of the United States are neither strongly committed to the numerous wars that our military is waging nor strongly opposed to them. We are barely aware of them and prefer not to think about them.
“America's Phony War”
William J. Astore, TomDispatch, March 15, 2018
The definition of twenty-first-century phony war, on the other hand, is its lack of clarity, its lack of purpose, its lack of any true imperative for national survival (despite a never-ending hysteria over the “terrorist threat”). The fog it produces is especially disorienting. Americans today have little idea “why we fight” … Meanwhile, with such a lack of national involvement and accountability, there's no pressure for the Pentagon or the rest of the national security state to up its game; there's no one even to point out that wherever the U.S. military has gone into battle in these years, yet more terror groups have subsequently sprouted like so many malignant weeds. Bureaucracy and mediocrity go unchallenged; massive boosts in military spending reward incompetency and the creation of a series of quagmire-like “generational” wars.
An essay by a public intellectual reflecting on the value of privacy and pointing out that many people prefer it to constant social interaction. This retrospective view, bordering on denialism, is surely one of the last expressions of the values that prevailed in the era before total and inevitable surveillance.
“Luxuriating in Privacy”
Sarah Perry, ribbonfarm, March 1, 2018
Privacy is wonderful in and of itself, and privacy keeps the peace.
Yes. And its disappearance is a reflection of the prevalence of total war.