Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fred Guerin — Privacy as the New Free-Trade Zone of Corporate Exploitation

What is the precise connection between human surveillance, the collection of different forms of data and metadata, and a system of corporate capitalism? Many have argued that the increasing push to collect private information or metadata is for the sake of our national security, and only secondarily, about commercial interests. However, this line of argument would be much more persuasive if the boundary between government and corporate interests were clear and unambiguous. It is not. In fact, as corporate capitalism becomes globalized, the distinction between government power and corporate power is all but erased.
Given this, it is not difficult to imagine that the surveillance infrastructure designed and built by powerful communications and tech industries, and implemented and enforced by way of government institutions and bureaucratic systems, would tend to serve the interests of the corporation first and foremost, with governments playing a parasitic or subsidiary role. To properly address the question of whether government or corporate interests are at the center, we need to first think about how to visualize or articulate the boundary between public and private....
It is crucial to understand here that the free-trade zone of individual privacy is not merely the creation of a new capitalist commodity or the realization of an untapped potential for profit. At the human level of lived experience, the eradication of privacy also creates a widespread sense of impotence, powerlessness and apathy before powerful governmental institutions and corporate hegemonies. This state of affairs will be pivotally important in the furtherance of rampant capitalist exploitation. Why? Precisely because eradicating the private sphere is also extinguishing the possibility that individuals can act in concert to resist what is happening to them. The truth is that we discover and sustain our sense of solidarity and commonality with others when we grasp that we are unique and irreplaceable beings who need to relate to ourselves and to each other in both a private and a public way. The condition of possibility for individual reflection, for community, for acting in concert, is that the distinction between the private and the public remains inviolable. The corporate capitalist system has achieved its singular totalitarian purpose when it is able to violate the inviolable.
Truthout | Op-Ed
Fred Guerin

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