Stacks On, Stacks Off: Digital Feudalism And Data Farming

While the internet may not be specifically owned by any particular entity, it’s often misconstrued as being a scattered network of individual domains. In reality, this is not the case, large scales businesses such as the Google Corporation own, not only individual domains but also multiple media platforms. i.e Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Fibre and Google Glass. In the past on this blog, I have written about the issues associated with mass media ownership including one I will talk about in this post, information control, more specifically, the gathering of the information. This time, I’m going to take a more utopian approach and argue that there are significant benefits to data empires and digital feudalism.

How Does Google Help?

The term “Data Empires” refers to organizations that host a collection of media platforms capable of mining data from users. Examples would include Facebook, which through multiple apps is capable of farming location data, personal information (name, date of birth, etc.), emotional information and contact information. Amazon, through online stores and devices collects information on what you watch, read and listen to. Google, arguably the most popular site on the web, the one I’m going to talk about in most detail farms information through services, websites, apps and devices on our location, all about our personal details, everything we search for on, chances are, if you put it online, Google will know it.

The reason for all this data collection is monetization. In today’s information age metaphysical goods are now just as valuable if not more. Our information can be sold to marketing companies for directed advertising or behavioral research groups. The more efficiently a company can mine information from us, the more the finer the data they can sell to marketers. Many people are against the idea of data mining because they have no control over where the information goes or what is done with it, there is a legitimate fear that this kind of mass information can be abused or simply misused at our expense and others argue that directed marketing is manipulative and treats us like numbers.

If you’re worried about where your information is going or what’s happening with it there are ways to prevent your information being collected including, not giving out unnecessary information, reading end user license agreements and keeping an eye on a websites cookie information.

The mass collection of information can benefit us in various ways. Directed marketing ties into last week’s post on niche markets, it allows us to receive advertisements to products and services that we’re interested in. Sure there are scumbag tactics companies such as airliners can use against you but if you take the necessary steps to prevent that sort of thins, directed marketing can help you find what you need and also allow business to offer cheaper niche products when they don’t have to advertise so extensively about it.

Do Good By Data

A significant example of the appropriate use of data collection is Google’s crisis response effort, through the use of its maps and location data as well as contact information collection, Google is capable of mass broadcasting warnings for potential disasters as well as distributing critical information.

Another case for data being used appropriately is the often documented potential health benefits of google glass. e.g helping sufferers of parkinsons disease. Google often collaborates with research teams and inventors to produce technologies and systems with the data google has stored to better society.

Ultimately, Mass data collection ‘can’ be used for good and not just for the exploitation of users as long as these data empires take note from Google’s corporate code of conduct, “Don’t be evil“.



3 thoughts on “Stacks On, Stacks Off: Digital Feudalism And Data Farming”

  1. First up, the layout of this post was really nice and easy to read.

    Secondly, the whole post was really well written, and there was an extensive use of sources too. Nice stuff!

    Thirdly, the insightful stuff: I really liked that you not only looked at the negative impacts of information control by these ‘data empires’ such as the lack of control we have over the information we put online, but you didn’t neglect the positive consequences of this, such as tailored made advertising, and mass broadcasting warnings to the public. Usually people side with the belief that mass control on the Internet is always a bad thing.

    I think that the positives can often outweigh the manipulation and information-greed that we often associate Internet conglomerates like Google with. I found this comical read about how Google is now a God. It gives an interesting insight into the nature of Google, and demonstrates how although we see it as this demeaning power, it can sometimes promote justice and respect –

  2. As a marketing and advertising major myself, I have to be a bit cheeky and argue for the case of data mining. Although some may consider it unethical, from a marketing standpoint its all about giving you the chance to buy products that mean the most to you. I like to think of it as a tailored marketing experience. But I would have to argue that your suggestions to avoid information collection, are quiet tedious for the average home PC user. Great post!

  3. You’ve linked some really great supporting material in this post. You’ve also covered a lot in it. Sometimes one or two main ideas is better than a whole lot. Overall, this is an awesome post and it put heaps of things into perspective for me! Thanks!

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