Who Owns The “Virtual You”?

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Pepe Escobar
The Asia Times
April 16, 2018

In our digital age, ownership, utilization, and monetization of data raises profound questions about personal rights, state rights and the limits of freedom…

For all the raft of unanswered questions or dismissal as a nothingburger, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s two-day grilling at Capitol Hill hopefully may unleash a serious global debate about our virtual selves.

US politicians, it seems, have discovered the merits of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation  (GDPR). The EU is actually at war with the GAFA galaxy (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and environs. The question for the US revolves around the immense legal twists and turns on how and what to regulate.

As much as Zuckerberg may have conceded that the industry needs to be regulated, scores of congressmen pressed him on whether Facebook would enforce GDPR for US customers. He dodged the question multiple times, promising GDPR “controls,” but never “protection.”

An army of savvy lawyers at the Facebook HQ certainly envisaged that regulation might “stifle competition,” as some congressmen did not fail to point out. And some, naively, even gave the whole game away, asking Zuckerberg directly what kind of regulation he would prefer.

Capitol Hill may not have noticed that Facebook and GAFA as a whole work pretty much like political parties disguised as companies. The founders/CEOs are major shareholders. Decisions have the imprimatur of a board working as a sort of political bureau. Congress is the shareholder general assembly. And the militants are the salaried mass addicted to a visionary movement.

The whole process runs in parallel with the decline of traditional political parties. Even top counseling comes from the political arena, like former Obama operative David Plouffe, who moved to Facebook from Uber, and Joel Benenson, Bill Clinton’s top…

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