Amazon’s Collaboration With The State Signals Neo — liberalism’s Slide Towards Neofascism
Before we consider the interdependent relationship of many powerful, monopolisitic corporations with governments and particularly government security agencies perhaps we should remind ourselves that fascism is not a well thought out political philosophy like socialism, conservatism, Marxism, anarchism or classical liberalism, in fact the only definition of it we have are contained in the words of Benito Mussolini, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
2018 may be remembered as the turning-point when the world finally woke up to the sinister implications of the government — corporate effort to inject the internet into our lives to the extent that we as individuals are dependent of the ubiquitous presence of popular Silicon Valley companies and their products or tools in our daily lives. One can only hope so, at least.
Over the past twelve months Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and PayPal — among others — have faced damaging and provable allegations confirming the ongoing abuse of user data by monopolistic corporations, as well as their more sinister role as vendors of surveillance technology to the U.S. police state, military, and migrant detention agencies.
In March, for the umpteenth time, the lid was blown off of the violation of user data on Facebook, with Cambridge Analytica being exposed for mining user information to create and provide millions of detailed “psychological profiles” to the political campaigns.
Only two weeks later, the the spotlight fell on Google over its predictably evil “Project Maven,” which was building an AI-driven platform to vastly upgrade the automatic targeting abilities of the U.S. military’s global drone fleet. Faced with outrage from the public and their own employees, the company withdrew its bid to renew the Pentagon contract for the work, which ends next year.
The latest Google scandal emerged earlier this week when it revealed that despite hypocritical pledges that the corporation prioritises uers’ privacy and security, app developers working for companies that run ad servers are being allowed to scan users’s gmail data to help them develop apps that will more accurately target users based on psychological profiles compiled from information gleaned through parsing private information without the users’ permission or even knowledge.
Now, employees and shareholders of Amazon.com — the world’s largest retailer and cloud-computing provider now expanding into news and entertainment media, IT hardware and a host of other areas — are demanding that chief executive Jeff Bezos halt the sale of Amazon Web Services facial recognition or Rekognition system to law enforcement agencies across the U.S., including to the Department of Homeland Security — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS-ICE).
“As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used,” the letter said. “We learn from history, and we understand how IBM’s systems were employed in the 1940s to help Hitler.
“IBM did not take responsibility then, and by the time their role was understood, it was too late,” it continued, referring to IBM’s well known collusion with the operation of Nazi death camps during the Second World War. “We will not let that happen again. The time to act is now.”
Amazon employees quoted an ACLU document that notes AWS Rekognition “raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns” owing to its “capacity for abuse.” Its uses could include monitoring protest activity, as well as the possibility that ICE could employ the technology to continuously track immigrants and advance its “zero tolerance” policy of detaining migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the letter which was sent to all on an email list named “we-won’t-build-it,” angry and disenchanted employees laid out their opposition to the corporation’s perceived collusion with police, security agencies and the DHS-ICE migrant-tracking and mass-incarceration regime.
Any move to embrace an ethical position by Amazon’s professional and managerial staff is to be welcomed, but it is worth noting that the same people have been prepared to work for a corporation which for several years has been known for its abominable treatment of low paid workers in distribution centres. The zero hours contracts and draconian penalities for latesness ot faling to meet production targets have really taken workers rights back to levels that prevailed in the nineteenth century.
It is also apparent that private web users are rapidly losing their trust in Silicon Valley tech giants and are becoming aware of how many of these organisations were started with seed capital from the CIA, DARPA or other government agencies and now continue to enjoy uncomfortably close relationships with the US government and its agencies. For two decades governments have pushed the internet at us while doing little to address its security flaws, privacy concerns, facilitation of criminal acts and potential for abuse by malfeasant corporate interests. I’m not saying we should abandon the internet or put it in a strait jacket, but I do believe we deserve a better internet, one on which — for example — I am not bombarded with ads for a certain product after mentioning that product in a light hearted context on a comment thread.