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The Era of Googlopoly

Dear professor, I have corrected my post. I look forward to hearing zour thoughts on it.

Thank you for the draft.
- The intro is good but could be improved. What you are talking about in the intro is industrialization and the shift to the fourth industrialization (as Zuboff points out).
- The first paragraph begins with sweeping generalizations that do not strengthen the essay but weaken it. And they do not even need to be there. There is a nice transition from the intro to the para in the reference to the exploitation of data… for economic gain.
- The next paragraph contradicts what came before it. So you need to decide what you think and then rewrite both parts. Are we coerced or are the algorithms useful? And if they are, that section needs a source. The source you gave is for the idea that you already gave a source for. (Also, what does the following sentence mean: “The Internet has already rooted itself so deeply into our lives, so why not make use of it?” Again, if this is a point you want to make, you need to develop it and support it with sources. )
- This sentence shows – again – the lack of coherence in this essay: jumping from one view to the other then back again: It might seem like a fair transaction at first. However, when we scratch the surface, we come to a completely different and baffling conclusion
- The third paragraph also lacks coherence and has areas needing development. E.g.: “posed a question in one of their forum” – what question? Any time a source is cited, the main idea needs to be paraphrased.
- So many throwaway sentences and so much repetition (the point about profit was already made – and better made, with support – earlier: Reasons? Unknown. Excuses? Insubstantial and unconvincing, which did nothing to shake their reign. This just goes to show that the Big Tech seems to no longer pay attention to who and what they step on so long as they make profit.
- The conclusion shows you do indeed think the SaaS is useful. So this idea will need to be developed in its own paragraph. How can you convincingly show its usefulness? What sources best explain it?
- What does the title, googlopoly, mean to you? It needs to be defined. Suggestion: use the Doctorow part in the conclusion up to and including the sentence on Google to introduce your idea on the usefulness of Saas, in the place of the second paragraph and develop. Leave the questions in the conclusion. Reread, and possibly add something more to the conclusion (and rest of essay) or take something out. Remember to edit.

Modern technology came about in the 18th century and has been rapidly developing ever since. However, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the invention of the Internet in the 1960s, our addiction blossomed. Blurring the lines between the physical and the digital, they introduced many novelties which significantly facilitate our lives, thus making it extremely easy to rely on technology. In the span of just a few decades, we’ve not only become accustomed to, but almost completely dependent on the easily attainable gadgets, especially now given the current pandemic. We’ve made everything, from our names, dates of birth, location and other personal data to our interests, aspirations and hopes, available online. Technology and the Internet have become an integral part of our lives and we’ve accepted them as such, yet not everyone is aware of what is done with the information that we so readily upload on the Internet, or that that information is “stolen” and exploited at all for that matter.


Previously slaves of capitalism, we’ve now shifted into a new kind of a business deal, one that professor emerita Shoshana Zuboff termed: “surrvailance capitalism“ (Carr, 2019). What was once an innocent attempt at enhancing a search engine to better suit the users has developed into a form of theft and utilizing our personal data for the economic gain of the Big Tech. Unhesitatingly, we accept the terms-of-service and cookies on various sites, blinded by the promise of better user experience. In return, we are served ads specifically tailored to our interests, all thanks to the almighty process of data-mining (What is Data Mining? Definition of Data Mining, Data Mining Meaning, 2020). Therefore, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that the second we think of a specific item, we see an ad about it on one or more of our social media platforms. As professor Zuboff put it simply we are not presented products in exchange for our money anymore, but have become the products ourselves (Carr, 2019). Our data, our searches, interactions, our behaviour on the Internet as a whole is collected and analyzed behind the curtains, with the alleged aim of improvement of services. However, our colleague nebz took their time to open our eyes through their forum post and point out that there might be other intentions under the guise of our satisfaction (nebz, 2020). As someone who didn’t pay much attention and mindlessy agreed to new updates to social media policies, I was utterly shocked to discover just how much insight into our lives we give away by simply clicking the “Agree“ button. It made me wonder whether these big corporations really need such a detailed report of our lives to achieve their goals. It almost feels like they’re stripping us of our freedom.


Google started this practice of collecting information. In fact, it is data-mining that led to its dominance on the search engine market share. While seeking to enhance their engine, its inventors, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Wikipedia contributors, 2020), realised how valuable the details of customers’ Internet history are and how much the map of their digital movement can contribute to the range and quality of services and even more importantly, they knew how to use that information to their advantage. Thus, even though Google is not the first and most certainly not the only search engine, with an astonishing 92.16% (for Nov, 2020) of worldwide shares (Search Engine Market Share Worldwide, 2020) it leaves all of the others in the dirt. Therefore, it’s pretty safe to say that instead of oligopoly (Investopedia, 2020), we have Googlopoly, with Google sitting proudly atop the chart as the best (Zaman, 2013).


Soon after, other companies realised the gains at stake and began applying the same algorithm. However, as time went on, lines between seeking to improve their services and breaching the privacy of their users became blurred. The research conducted in Australia (Seneviratne, 2019) showed that more than one tech giant willingly and shamelessly abused their users trust. Numerous instances of deliberate use of personal data either for economic gain, political campaigning (Goldhill, 2020) or with other goals in mind are a clear indicator that our existence on the Internet is boiled down to wrenches in corporations’ toolboxes. Our colleague airsignsag posed a question of whether the Big Tech dehumanize us through our use of the Internet in one of their forum posts (airsignsag, 20202) and I want to take the liberty to express my own opinion here: yes, we indeed are nothing more than numbers that large corporations use to wage wars against one other for dominance on the Internet. Various scandals support this claim, the most recent of which is, yet again, connected to Facebook (Bloomberg, 2020). Proving that the immense amount of information already obtained isn’t enough to quench their thirst for money, Facebook followed in Amazon’s (Cuthbertson, 2019) and Apple’s (Hern, 2019) footsteps and used front facing cameras of Instagram (the newest in the line of platforms Facebook has acquired over the years) to spy on their users. Reasons? Unknown. Excuses? Insubstantial and unconvincing, which did nothing to shake their reign. This just goes to show that the Big Tech seem to no longer pay attention to who and what they step on so long as they make profit.


This being said, Doctorow was completely right when he said that “we trade our privacy for services“ (Doctorow, 2020). Willingly or unwillingly, we are the ones giving permission to be exploited. We allowed Google and the others to trap us in this digital cage, but we can’t say that they don’t keep their side of the bargain. On the contrary, the benefits are innumerable. Starting from the obvious, the Internet is a vast ocean of information just one click away and it would be absurd and needless to explain why this is so beneficial. From expanding our knowledge to simply communicating with family and friends, in our surroundings or abroad, the possibilities are endless. Not only that, but data-mining, though privy to our lives, provides us with a plethora of articles and products of our interest and overall customizes our experience on the Internet. Furthermore, Google alone offers so many different platforms (Onze producten – Google, 2020) which cover almost every area of life. Directions? Google Maps are at your disposal. Need some entertainment? Millions of games are available on Play Store, or, if that’s not your preference, Youtube, Google Play Books and Google Play Movies & TV have you covered. Regardless of whether you need to keep track of your health, organize your life or do some shopping, there’s at least one app which can aid you. Even in these tough times, when in-person contact is advised against, platforms such as Google Meet, Google Classroom, Zoom and Skype made it possible for students to continue their education (The Rise of Online Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020). The Internet has also become a large job market, as it provides countless opportunities for freelancers (Balasa, 2020) to offer their services, for development of small businesses (Caramela, 2018) or for earning money by simply being „Internet famous“ (Edmondson, 2019). The list of advantages is quite lengthy.


In conclusion, just like any other, the issue of the Internet shouldn’t be viewed as either black or white, as there are multiple sides and facts to be taken into consideration. It is true that we might be a bit too exposed and that we should take precautions and try to protect our privacy as much as possible, but as we’ve seen, without these privacy breaches we would be deprived of certain things. The question is, though, even if couldn’t protect ourselves, yet were aware of exactly what is being done with the private data that we upload online, would we want to give up the conveniences that the Internet has brought about? Life without it has become practically unimaginable, so would we be ready to delete our digital existence in the face of all these risks? Could we do that? Because, as the saying goes, what’s once uploaded on the Internet stays there forever.

By Ma.M. (mmmpast)

Resources:
1. Carr, N. (2019, January 15). Thieves of Experience: How Google and Facebook Corrupted Capitalism. Los Angeles Review of Books. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/thieves-of-experience-how-google-and-facebook-corrupted-capitalism/
2. Doctorow, C. (2020, February 11). The Curious Case of Internet Privacy. MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2012/06/06/19572/the-curious-case-of-internet-privacy/
3. Economic Times. (2020, December 22). What is Data Mining? Definition of Data Mining, Data Mining Meaning. The Economic Times. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/data-mining
4. Seneviratne, S. (2019, November 26). The ugly truth: tech companies are tracking and misusing our data, and there’s little we can do. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-ugly-truth-tech-companies-are-tracking-and-misusing-our-data-and-theres-little-we-can-do-127444
5. Goldhill, O. (2020, May 2). How political campaigns decode voters’ opinions with personal data. Quartz. https://qz.com/1843373/how-political-campaigns-decode-voters-opinions-with-personal-data/
6. Bloomberg. (2020, September 18). Facebook sued for spying on Instagram users through their smartphone cameras. The Economic Times. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/facebook-sued-for-spying-on-instagram-users-through-their-smartphone-cameras/articleshow/78183094.cms
7. Cuthbertson, A. (2019, April 11). Amazon admits employees listen to Alexa conversations. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/amazon-alexa-echo-listening-spy-security-a8865056.html
8. Hern, A. (2019, August 29). Apple apologises for allowing workers to listen to Siri recordings. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/aug/29/apple-apologises-listen-siri-recordings
9. nebz (2020, November 23). Social Networks and Privacy / Social networks / Intercultural Extraneity Forum. Intercultural Extraneity. http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=26
10. airsignsag (2020, October 29). How safe are we on the Internet? / Week 4: Privacy/agency / Intercultural Extraneity Forum. Intercultural Extraneity. https://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=75#p75
11. Search Engine Market Share Worldwide. (2020). StatCounter Global Stats. https://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share
12. Wikipedia contributors. (2020, December 28). Google. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google
13. Oligopoly. (2020, March 29). Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/o/oligopoly.asp
14. Zaman, Q. (2013, April 9). Why Google is the Leading Search Engine Website? SEO Blog by Dallas SEO Qamar Zaman. https://news.oneseocompany.com/2012/07/15/why-google-is-the-leading-search-engine-website_20120715740.html
15. Onze producten – Google. (2020). Google. https://about.google/products/
16. Caramela, S. (2018, April 17). Google for Business: A Small Business Guide. Business News Daily. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6344-google-business-guide.html
17. The rise of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. (2020, April 29). World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning/
18. Edmondson, B. (2019, May 9). How to Make Money By Becoming an Instagram Influencer. The Balance Small Business. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-to-make-money-on-instagram-and-become-a-star-4158952
19. Balasa, V. (2020, June 19). Why Freelancers Are Saving The Internet. Hongkiat. https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/freelancers-saving-the-internet/

I, Marija Miletić, hereby confirm that this work is solely the result of my own independent scholarly work and that if any ideas, text passages, or diagrams from books, papers, the Web or other sources have been copied, paraphrased, or in any other way used, all references – including those found in electronic media – have been clearly acknowledged and fully cited.

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