Sitting in my East Berlin office reading yet another data scandal—this time it’s more about Uber who failed to disclose a massive data breach last year—I can’t help but wonder, what would the Stasi make of this? Until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Stasi controlled these streets and half of this country with a sinister omnipresence. Their weapon of choice was surveillance. It spied on and collected information on practically every citizen. Its motive was this, the more it knew about people, the more power and control it had over them. The Stasi’s aim therefore was “to know everything about everyone”. When The Wall fell people were chilled to the bone when the extent of the surveillance came to light. Weighty files were stored on citizens, and they were understandably horrified to find this out.
Fast forward to today and tech giants store much more information than the Stasi ever could. They too, like the Stasi, seem to answer to no one. They escape regulation. The only difference is that the data is given up freely to the tech companies. Other times, the user isn’t even aware—even after logging out of Facebook for instance the company still follows users around the web. Its algorithms track your clicks on other sites so they can make money by selling your browser behavior to advertisers.
They take all the profit from anything posted and share it on their site and along with Amazon and Google are accused of having a monopoly of the market. They buy up any serious competition. Facebook reap huge profits by monitoring every click of news stories, yet the outlets that produce the content that gets engagement, are failing because their traditional advertisers spend their budget on Facebook and Google campaigns. Hardly a fair business model.
The big three make insane amounts of money and with the coffers to lobby and influence policy, their power is growing. They are being accused of being a threat to democracy itself. Yet people don’t seem to really care. Like pointed out in the excellent Adam Curtis documentary The Century of the Self, by appealing to the individual, the collective is numbed.
We fought against the Orwellian nightmare the Stasi wanted for us only to be sedated in a Huxleyan Brave New World, where tech companies have more money and power than governments.
The sole purpose of the data harvesting is to sell products and make advertising dollars. To individualize your shopping experience. So this Black Friday your time won’t be wasted by seeing adverts you’re not interested in. Isn’t that exciting? No? I don’t think so either. I think it is just another form of control over a suppressed population.
The big tech three, Google, Facebook and Amazon know more about us than our dearest family members. They probably know more about us than we do about ourselves. Recently the founder of Opera, Jon Von Tetzchner, said internet users should be “deeply worried” about the level of information collected on them by technology companies. He warned that everything that an individual does online is now trackable and could potentially be used against them. That amount of surveillance should and must be illegal! These companies should not be able to collection information so freely and use it for commercial purposes.
But they can. Until that changes,we have to appeal to the individual again. Not to log on and look at your personalized advert feed, but to take steps to protect your data so that your online life is not just one big advertising campaign. Start by taking back your cloud with get2Clouds. It’s a free cloud transfer and messenger application that gives users all the convenience of the cloud but with none of the risks.