“Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google represent, in the words of Germany’s economy minister Sigmar Gabriel, “brutal information capitalism”, and Europe must act no to protect itself.” – The Guardian Weekly Vol 190 No 5
Sigmar goes on to say; “Either we defend our freedom and change our policies, or we become digitally hypnotised subjects of a digital rulership. It is the future of democracy in a digital age, and nothing less, that is at stake here, and with it the freedom, emancipation, participation and self-determination of 500 million people in Europe.”
The issues are complex, however having been burning out of the sight of the mainstream media for the last year or more. Issues of perceived tax avoidance, too much control over our online lives, privacy, and with PRISM and NSA revelations, more fuel to the fire. Further, Silicon Valley mega-billionaires are pushing for the valley to be separated from the U.S. and are looking at creating their own floating nation states in order to operate outside of the arm of national law. Google and Facebook in particular seem to have a serious god-complex, dabbling in some very dangerous areas including recently revelations the Facebook deliberately set out to manipulate the emotions of it’s users in some kind of mass experiment.
Cisco is seeing revenue drop on the back of spying concerns at a time when the Internet of Things, the next gold-rush for the mega-tech companies, is just starting.
“Last quarter, new orders fell 12 percent in the developing world, with orders in Brazil down 25 percent and in Russia down 30 percent.” – Source
Both countries sited have expressed extreme displeasure with the U.S. over it’s spying and are hitting the country where it hurts most, it’s massive tech industry.
“Germany today announced that it will allow its contract with Verizon, one of the companies implicated by the National Security Agency programs leaked by Edward Snowden, to run out in 2015. The announcement says that the decision not to renew the contract was caused by malware concerns, security problems, and the fact that it doesn’t appreciate the NSA’s efforts to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders.” – Source
Microsoft is hurting as well, with China recently block banning Windows 8, citing security concerns and persistent rumours that IBM servers are likely to follow the same course.
“In a speech at the GigaOm Structure conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith warned attendees that unless the US political establishment figures out how to rein in its spy agencies, there could be heavy repercussions for tech companies
“The longer we wait or the less we do the worse the problem becomes,” he explained. “We are seeing other governments consider new procurement rules – procurement rules that could effectively freeze out US-based companies.” – Source
VMWare sees and upside to the mess, stating that; “there is now universal acceptance that public clouds will outstrip data centers in terms of performance, security and economics” and “the concerns around data privacy will massively accelerate public cloud.” – Source
The reasoning that VMWare gives is that if people want security, then the public cloud may be the only way to get it. It’s entirely possible that is happening, however, again, it could be at the expense of the U.S. tech industry.
“German users have reacted to the NSA scandal by switching to German email providers … and they are demanding encryption of their emails so far reserved to telecom companies. There is a great opportunity for private encryption,” the minister said. She claimed that “some 80 percent have done so” already.” – Source
Tax is a major issue for government as well. The Tech Industry, despite being the richest of the rich on the planet, have found creative ways to pay less tax.
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has blamed the Government’s weak tax laws for the fact it has paid just £8m of corporation tax in Britain despite making more than £6bn in revenues in this country in the six years to 2010. – Source
“Apple channels its non-US revenues through Ireland, an alleged sweetheart deal with the Irish tax office allowed it to pay just 3.7% on international profits in 2013, according the European commission experts. This deal is now being investigated by Brussels.” The Guardian Weekly Vol 190 No 5
Amazon is accused of the same, along with strong-arming publishers and traders.
Even within the U.S. proper, the general population, certainly of San Francisco is turning on the tech glitterati of Silicon Valley that has seen them the subject of death threats, organised protest groups, rock throwing, and accusations that they are pushing out the lesser well-off.
“a backlash against the denizens of Silicon Valley has been gathering steam for the past nine months. It started with blockades and assaults against the private buses laid on by companies such as Google and Facebook to shuttle their employees to work; a service that has enabled the tech elite to live in San Francisco (and push up property prices) despite working 30 or so miles to the south.” – Source
Then there is the manipulation of users with the most recent example being Facebook that conducted an “emotional manipulation experiment” on 689,003 users.
“In its “emotional contagion experiment” Facebook tampered with the emotional well-being of 689,003 users to see how their emotions could be controlled; Facebook’s hypothesis amounted to “let’s see if we can plant unhappiness and make it spread.” – Source
One does not have to look too far into history to understand the terrifying danger that is associated with manipulating mass human emotion. So do these guys and girls think they are God?
“The Greeks had a word for this, I thought, as I worked my way through Marc Andreessen’s most recent epic tweet storm.
The venture capitalist — who has suddenly begun treating Twitter as his own personal pulpit for delivering Silicon Valley’s version of the Sermon from the Mount — was explaining to his 124,000 followers the awesomeness of the “superpowers” that emerging technology has bequeathed to each and every one of us:
A new age of wonder is at hand, Andreessen declared; a miraculous era in which our smartphones and network-accessible Web services and 3-D printers and Uber-on-demand-everything have made us all veritable demigods. The amazing things we will do with these superpowers will overwhelm the naysayers who worry about inequality and job loss and economic decline. With our new superhuman abilities, we will all be mighty Avengers, equipped to save the world from any possible crisis, and able to develop our individual potentials to the highest maximum.” – Source
While that article is a little, dramatic, consider the phenomena known as “Google Brain”, where those of us that access to Google 24X7 are having our brains slowly but surely rewired to install Google as some kind of extension to our intelligence, forgetting data that we know we can find again at the touch of a button.
“If its artificial intelligence dreams come true, Google might end up knowing you better than you know yourself. As we export more and more of our intelligence to Google, the question might become: What are our own brains for?” – Source
“This summer (2007), neuroscientist Ian Robertson polled 3,000 people and found that the younger ones were less able than their elders to recall standard personal info. When Robertson asked his subjects to tell them a relative’s birth date, 87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite it, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so. And when he asked them their own phone number, fully one-third of the youngsters drew a blank. They had to whip out their handsets to look it up.” – Source
While some argue that this then frees our minds up to do other stuff, objectors remind us that Google is the one that controls access to that data, and have been known to manipulate it in the past. If we give our brains to Google, a massive corporation that survives on revenue, then we run the risk of them being able to simply censor things out of existence.
Regardless of the reasons, whether spying or the rise of the luddites, the large tech companies are in for a very rocky ride over the next few years.