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The threats to privacy are well known: the National Security Agency tracks our phone calls; Google records where we go online and how we set our thermostats; Facebook changes our privacy settings when it wishes; Target gets hacked and loses control of our credit card information; our medical records are available for sale to strangers; our children are fingerprinted and their every test score saved for posterity; and small robots patrol our schoolyards and drones may soon fill our skies.
The contributors to this anthology don’t simply describe these problems or warn about the loss of privacythey propose solutions. They look closely at business practices, public policy, and technology design, and ask, Should this continue? Is there a better approach?” They take seriously the dictum of Thomas Edison: What one creates with his hand, he should control with his head.” It’s a new approach to the privacy debate, one that assumes privacy is worth protecting, that there are solutions to be found, and that the future is not yet known. This volume will be an essential reference for policy makers and researchers, journalists and scholars, and others looking for answers to one of the biggest challenges of our modern day. The premise is clear: there’s a problem—let’s find a solution.
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Celebrants and skeptics alike have produced valuable analyses of the Internet’s effect on us and our world, oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. But according to Robert W. McChesney, arguments on both sides fail to address the relationship between economic power and the digital world.
McChesney’s award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy skewered the assumption that a society drenched in commercial information is a democratic one. In Digital Disconnect McChesney returns to this provocative thesis in light of the advances of the digital age, incorporating capitalism into the heart of his analysis. He argues that the sharp decline in the enforcement of antitrust violations, the increase in patents on digital technology and proprietary systems, and other policies and massive indirect subsidies have made the Internet a place of numbing commercialism. A small handful of monopolies now dominate the political economy, from Google, which garners an astonishing 97 percent share of the mobile search market, to Microsoft, whose operating system is used by over 90 percent of the world’s computers. This capitalistic colonization of the Internet has spurred the collapse of credible journalism, and made the Internet an unparalleled apparatus for government and corporate surveillance, and a disturbingly anti-democratic force.
Continue reading “Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy”