My question is, if there is an upside, to google/etc having our data (and I’m not saying that there is or isn’t) are there downsides as well that we need to wrestle with and consider? While I can see your points, I do think we should also be a bit careful about all this and critical…
I think especially point two you make is especially important, and I think I agree, to an extent, but I think it’s messier. Sure, what google/etc collects is something you can find out about and understand, and from that stand point it is more transparent then the NSA. However, I think we do need to think about the fact that this is for the benefit of a corporation, by a corporation. Their goal is not public service, but fatter wallets. Plus, if there is something that google perceives as being against their economic interest, they are not going to release that. While they use “open source”, they also have quite a few things that are closed from the public, too. That isn’t saying that good can’t come of it, but it is something to be aware of and not ignore, which I think too many people do.
As to the point of “unsubscribing”, I think we need to figure out how these sorts of things are changing social relations and if it’s good, bad, or somewhere in between. I think being active online has been helpful for people who are normally isolated socially for whatever reason. But, it can have the effect of causing social isolation, in part because it is just another digital class divide in our society. Not everyone is online, nor are they online in the same ways.
I think we’re seeing massive social changes based on new capitalist technologies, and we need to do our best to shape and steer it in a true a democratic way as possible, at the very least. I for one tend to not trust large corporations on principle, given their destructive history, even when they are doing things that are good and beneficial, from our POV. But I’m generally a skeptic on such things, so you can take that with a grain of salt, I guess. If we are creating new class divisions, based on the digital divide, we should at least chart how and why this is happening and understanding the role that google/etc plays in the surveillance state is part of this (because it’s not an either/or thing with the stuff with the NSA, I’d argue–there are lots of unknowns with regards to that relationship, I fear).
I think my major point with linking to this story is that we aren’t really have these discussions about the role of corporations in the surveillance state, but we are focused on the government, thanks to Snowden. Not bad, and it’s a great thing he did, at great personal cost to himself, but I just don’t think this is the only aspect we need to be focused on and be wary of.