[Air-L] Privacy Buzz
mark-andrejevic at uiowa.edu
Sun Feb 14 19:48:19 PST 2010
Thanks for these observations: the Buzz story is one more example of what we might expect to happen (as Christian points out), when, in the name of convenience, access, lack of better alternatives, etc., we develop and conduct significant portions of our communicative and transactional lives (whether social, professional, or educational -- think of the Google/Microsoft battle over who will take over university email accounts) on commercially supported platforms whose business model is based on data collection and processing.
I wonder if Google's "clumsiness" in rolling out something like this lies in the way it thinks about information, which has much to do with finding applications for making sense out of (and putting to use) large amounts of data. Our contact lists, viewed in this light, are just one more data set that can be multi-purposed, for them and for us. From such a perspective, it might seem like such a waste not to put that information to "good use." It's a perspective that is perhaps implicit in the media charges of "clumsiness" (that Google just didn't handle this right, that they're too willing to release applications in beta form, not fully tested, etc.), which seems to assume, that yes, all of this info is useful for multi-purposing, if it's just done right.
I suspect that this is just the beginning of an ongoing series of revelations regarding what it means to rely on privatized, data-driven, commercially supported platforms for an increasing range of our communication and information-related activities. It's really an unprecedented level of commercialization and privatization. Against the background of Google taking over university email (and perhaps, eventually secondary school email accounts, document storage, and so on) previous concerns about commercial organizations in the schools (Channel One, in the US for example) seem almost quaint. The "value proposition" is clear: commercial companies will provide us with a range of communication and information services in exchange for detailed data collection about these various aspects of our lives -- data that can be used in non-transparent ways to sort, manipulate and manage users. It's not the kind of choice we might make in theory, when laid out in stark terms, but it does seem to be the kind of choice we're willing to make in practice, perhaps out of a lack of better alternatives to address the social and economic pressure to network, respond, stay in contact, etc.
I think Christian makes a very interesting point about the focus on potential ~abuses~ of Buzz data by "other" authoritarian regimes, a focus that implicitly sanctions the "proper" commercial use of personal information and backgrounds the state's use of private sector data by, say, the United States. At the same time, the line between government use and corporate use continues to be reconfigured and blurred. The "investment arm" of the CIA puts money into data-mining companies, which in turn purchase data from an increasingly entrepreneurial state for commercial use, and so on.
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org [air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Richard Forno [rforno at infowarrior.org]
Sent: Saturday, February 13, 2010 7:38 PM
To: Christian Fuchs
Cc: List Aoir
Subject: [Air-L] offlist - Re: Privacy Buzz
I agree .... again, while I don't use Gmail or Facebook, etc......I am more concerned with the personal privacy "violation" to/for friends than I am anything having to to with a state government. Why? Because i presume that anything I do/say in cyberspace, or has the possibility to transit through or exist on a server/service that I don't have positive control over, potentially can be intercepted or compromised for any number of legitimate or nefarious purposes. That reality is not something one should fear only in totalitarian societiies, by the way.
That said, to me, the more sinister "motive" is what Christian talks about: economic exploitation -- but I certainly acknowledge and appreciate those with political concerns here as well. It's also one of the reasons I've been slow to embrace things like Facebook (I don't) and only recently began dabbling with Twitter and LinkedIn. Put bluntly, I just don't like the idea of a for-profit entity knowing my social network, which can be used for marketing or other purposes that I may not appreciate or agree with. Am I paranoid? Perhaps. But I am under no obligation to use these services, so if I chose 'not to play' it's no big deal for me .... even though many of my friends would love it if I joined them on Facebook. ;)
On Feb 13, 2010, at 7:59 PM, Christian Fuchs wrote:
> I think Buzz is an interesting new phenomenon.
> I find interesting about the NY Times article and the reactions of some users to Buzz that they primarily stress the danger that China, Iran, etc could use Buzz for engaging in the (political) surveillance of political oppositionists and that they label such endeavaours totalitarian, while at the same time they do not provide a critique of the economic surveillance machine constituted by Google's expanding services, its collection, storage, analysis, and commodification of personal data, and its market dominance.
> Surveillance and Big brother are not only somewhere out there in China or Iran, they are also present in the heart of capitalism itself - in the form of economic surveillance, and Google is one of its primary executors.
> "When you use Google Buzz, we may record information about your use of the product, such as the posts that you like or comment on and the other users who you communicate with. This is to provide you with a better experience on Buzz and other Google services and to improve the quality of Google services"
> "If you use Google Buzz on a mobile device and choose to view "nearby" posts, your location will be collected by Google."
> The task is to collect as many data about users and to then to sell this data as commodity to advertising clients. Google fears the competition by Facebook and Twitter in the social networking market, and so has set up its own service (although I doubt that I will be so successful because until now it only supports rather trivial functions).
> To only focus on the political surveillance capabilities that Buzz provides for some non-Western societies and to ignore the immanence of economic surveillance, is a form od Digital Orientalism that is ideologically blind for the forms of stratification that are at the heart of Western economies.
> Cheers, Christian
>> On Feb 13, 2010, at 11:33 AM, Aziz Douai wrote:
>>> Hi everyone,
>>> I guess I am one of the lurkers on the listserv, but here goes my first
>>> contribution: Buzz. If you have used the new google social network service,
>>> how do you feel about the seeming violation of privacy? A few days ago, I
>>> decline my Gmail's insistence on adding trying the new feature/service. Now,
>>> the New York Times has a great article (Critics Say Google Invades Privacy
>>> with New Service:
>>> http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/technology/internet/13google.html) on how
>>> users' rights to privacy appear to have been violated. The article raises
>>> the interesting question of how totalitarian regimes may use the service to
>>> suppress political dissent. Google's rhetoric and carefully constructed
>>> image following its row with China is put to test.
>>> Anyway, I am curious as to how AIR members have found the feature with
>>> regard to both privacy and security.
>>> Aziz Douai, Ph.D.
>>> Assistant Professor, Communication Program
>>> Faculty of Criminology, Justice and Policy Studies
>>> University of Ontario Institute of Technology
>>> 2000 Simcoe Street North
>>> Oshawa, ON L1H 7K4
>>> E-mail: aziz.douai at uoit.ca/ azizdouai at gmail.com
>>> "A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring
>>> it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both." James
>>> Madison, 1822
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> - - -
> Priv.-Doz. Dr. Christian Fuchs
> Associate Professor
> Unified Theory of Information Research Group
> ICT&S Center
> University of Salzburg
> Sigmund Haffner Gasse 18
> 5020 Salzburg
> christian.fuchs at sbg.ac.at
> Phone +43 662 8044 4823
> Personal Website: http://fuchs.uti.at
> Research Group: http;//www.uti.at
> Editor of
> tripleC - Cognition, Communication, Co-Operation | Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society
> Fuchs, Christian. 2008. Internet and Society: Social Theory in the Information Age. New York: Routledge.
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