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posted by takyon on Monday December 10 2018, @04:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the giant-leap dept.

Aral Balkan has a blog post about taking small steps to end surveillance capitalism. In particular he focuses on the need for federated services. He points out that the move to re-decentralize the WWW is difficult and needs to start at the beginning, using a comparison of Apple's original computers to their latest generation of tablets as an illustration.

Five years ago, when I decided to devote myself to tackling the problem of surveillance capitalism, it was clear what we needed: convenient and beautiful ethical everyday things that provide seamless experiences1 on fully free-as-in-freedom stacks.

This is as true today as it was then and it will remain so. The only way to compete with unethical products built by organisations that have control over hardware + software + services is to create ethical organisations that have control over hardware + software + services and thus have at least the possibility to craft competitive experiences. We remove our eyes from this goal at our peril.

Related: Tim Berners-Lee Launches Inrupt, Aims to Create a Decentralized Web


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by urza9814 on Monday December 10 2018, @06:26PM (5 children)

    by urza9814 (3954) on Monday December 10 2018, @06:26PM (#772467) Journal

    it's being paid for with other peoples resources, resources which have been stolen from folks at the point of a gun.

    ...or resources voluntarily invested with the promise that the company will eventually grow big enough to capture the market, at which point it will give great returns.

    It wasn't the government keeping Amazon.com afloat for its first decade or so of existence. That was entirely venture capitalists. So yeah, I think "capitalism" is exactly the right word. Nobody is going to invest in diaspora*, because there's no profit to be made. Lots of people invest in Facebook, because their control brings profit. How are you going to force ads on people without an iron fist control over the platform? How are you going to sell consumer data to advertisers and surveillance groups? You can't. And if you aren't squeezing every last cent out of your users, the investors will go find someone who will.

    Until the amount of resources put into public software just to create good software is able to exceed the amount of resources put into software just to get a good ROI, we aren't going to solve this problem.

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  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @06:46PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @06:46PM (#772484)

    And he's now building a second/third HQ near the Pentagon.

    Google recently had a huge public kerfuffle with its employees because it came to light that they were working for the military on a project.

    This stuff has nothing to do with advertising or capitalism.

  • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:05PM (3 children)

    by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:05PM (#772826)

    amazon primary income does not come from advertising/spying revenue. Amazon does not have analytics cookies everywhere, that's google.

    • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday December 11 2018, @01:16PM (2 children)

      by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @01:16PM (#772841) Journal

      Well, it may not be their primary income, but they still do a hell of a lot of it. At this point they're doing physical surveillance too, setting up cameras in airports and providing software to local police across the country.

      But that's not really the point. Surveillance isn't the root issue, control is. Without control, surveillance would not be possible. People would leave. But they get locked into the network, where leaving would mean losing connection with friends, losing their post/order/conversation/viewing histories, losing their entire profile and starting over from scratch. If the data was portable and the networks were open, that wouldn't be the case, you could just move to a different service and keep all of your prior connections. I've done that myself with email numerous times. But when is the last time someone invested hundreds of millions in an email provider? They don't, because there's no lock-in.

      • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Tuesday December 11 2018, @04:10PM (1 child)

        by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 11 2018, @04:10PM (#772910)

        > But when is the last time someone invested hundreds of millions in an email provider?

        Google must dump loads of money into gmail. Remember when having a gmail account was cool? When iphone was new and google announced email with unlimited (or it seemed so at the time) storage. Nowadays gmail is still the secondary reason why most people have a google account (with android being primary).

        Spin it another way - google have repeatedly failed to sell google+ or whatever social network attempt. Why? Because it's like facebook but crappier. Now, everyone knows facebook is evil, many care but are too locked in to do anything about it. Offer a non-locked-in service, like gmail, and people will flock to it; they win kudos with the techy crowd (who brief the media, who brief the public). And let's face it, how many people have migrated away from gmail? They can get more users/ads revenue at the same time. It's a no-brainer and someone in Google should do it.

        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:29PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:29PM (#772950) Journal

          Eh...gmail was popular initially because it was legitimately that much better. I used to switch email accounts about once a year, shuffling around to find who was offering the most storage this year. 2MB accounts to 5MB to 10MB to 20MB...and then all of a sudden someone starts offering 1GB plus? Of course I switched. And now I've switched to my own server, because gmail kinda sucks these days too.

          The thing is...Google invests in gmail as a loss leader. It's a great way to get people to register a Google account, which then pushes them towards other Google services in the future. Nobody is investing in gmail for the sake of gmail, and nobody really expects gmail to be profitable all by itself. But the battle to control email is already lost, so they try to monopolize the market as best they can so they can utilize that for surveillance efforts which can then bolster their other, more locked-in services.

          As I said before, nobody is investing in email. People might invest in closed ecosystems of which email is a part, but nobody invests in email itself.