The Guardian, the UK news site most famous for releasing the Snowden Leaks, posted yesterday about an apparent deal between Microsoft and Google to cease all regulatory complaints against each other worldwide. Writes The Guardian: “The common corporate line is that the companies want to compete on products, not court cases.”
Microsoft still makes more money than Google, but the gap has steadily gotten smaller and Redmond clearly needs to adapt. The company has focused its crosshairs on what CEO Satya Nadella calls systems of intelligence—continuous and connected looping data streams, providing greater insight into the world around us.
Harvard Business School Professor Shoshana Zuboff has a more sinister name for it: surveillance capitalism.
Zuboff defines surveillance capitalism as follows:
The monetization of free behavioral data acquired through surveillance and sold on to entities with an interest in your future behavior.
Those entities can include advertisers, law enforcement and signals intelligence arms of governments, like the CSE and NSA. You get the idea.
Zuboff goes on to say that surveillance capitalism can only thrive where no laws exist to regulate it:
Regulations and laws are its enemy. Democratic oversight is a threat. Lawlessness is so vital to the surveillance capitalism project that Google and Microsoft’s shared interest in freedom from regulation outweighs any narrower competitive interests they might have, or once thought they had.
And that’s the worry here. If Microsoft and Google have indeed created an information oligopoly, and if governments directly benefit from it, there will be little impetus for oversight.
Welcome to Big Other.