Smiley Faced Monopolists - NI 494- July/August 2016 - New Internationalist New Zealand

Smiley Faced Monopolists - NI 494- July/August 2016

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A note from the editor

The digital titans unmasked

‘It’s a Faustian pact, but hell seems a long way away’

‘Yes, but personally, I don’t mind,’ said a good friend and dedicated Facebook user. We had been talking about privacy on the internet and the ever-increasing power of the digital giants.

My friend’s approach is undoubtedly shared by many of us, who make regular use of efficient and immensely successful services like Google, Facebook and Amazon – the main companies that feature in this month’s Big Story. We have traded our privacy for something we find useful and put on hold our support for ethical shopping in exchange for the ease of low (or no) price and almost-instant gratification. It’s a Faustian pact, alright... and hell may be nearer than we think.

I have been surprised, while working on this month’s Big Story, just how far down the line we are; how deeply exploitative and anti-democratic is this new ‘surveillance capitalism’ under which we now live. This month’s contributors include such leading lights in the field as security expert Bruce Schneier, psychologist Robert Epstein and engineer and software activist Prabir Purkayastha. Maybe their arguments will prompt a bit of a rethink among those of my friend’s disposition...

Elsewhere in this month’s issue we visit Toronto’s world-famous HotDocs festival, catch up with Máxima Acuña, the courageous Peruvian farmer who is standing up to US mining giant Newmont, and report on Malaysia’s slide towards authoritarianism.

Vanessa Baird for the New Internationalist co-operative

This issue is available to purchase as a paper edition here, or you can buy the digital edition individually or as part of a digital subscription at