Have data become a strategic commodity for twenty-first century governments?
Facebook is newsworthy. Hardly a week passes without the company occupying some section of the newspaper, be it ‘Society’, ‘Economy’ or ‘Politics’. Admiration for its skyrocketing market share, suspicion about its legendary CEO or indignation about its ultra-volatile privacy settings keep it in the headlines but alter surprisingly little of its astounding, ongoing success. More than 800 million people, according to the latest figures, have endorsed their digital exposure even while often suspecting the costs: users’ detailed files are collected and can be disposed of freely by the company. Facebook knows its users intimately. Wikileaks’ omnipresent spokesperson Julian Assange once called it the ‘most appalling spy-machine ever invented’. The satirical web-news channel Onion News Network goes further, in one of its sketches presenting Facebook as an invention of the CIA for the purpose of unburdening its overworked employees by crowdsourcing spying. A popular conspiracy theory links Facebook to the CIA because Facebook received funding from Accel whose manager, Jim Breyer, was once chairman of the board of the National Venture Capital Association of which Guilman Louie, then CEO of In-Q-Tel, was a member. In-Q-Tel is commonly known to be the CIA’s venture capital arm. Knowing this, the apparent proximity of Facebook to the US government comes to mind. Haven’t we also seen the US President at Marc Zuckerberg’s side? Didn’t one of Facebook’s co-founders, Chris Hughes, help organise the President’s campaigning efforts?
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