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It's monopolies, not surveillance.

Short thesis

Surveillance capitalism isn't "rogue capitalism," it's *monopoly* capitalism: data-collection doesn't let Big Tech control our minds, but monopolies on search results and app stores do. But surveillance isn't harmless: it's deadly toxic, and has the power to destroy our lives, and it's precisely *because* data produces such poor returns to advertisers that they end up collecting so much of it.


Tech and monopolies are welded together: the Apple ][+ emerges within a year or two of neoliberal regimes like those of Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney and Augusto Pinochet. The antitrust malpractice set in motion by these extremists allowed tech to grow through historically prohibited means: mergers, acquisitions, vertical integration. Tech will tell you they had no choice, that monopolies are intrinsic to tech, that "network effects" and "first mover advantage" make monopolies inevitable and that CEOs who lead their organizations to monopoly power are prisoners of history.

Tech exception isn't the sole province of its beneficiaries, though! Some of tech's sharpest critics will tell you that it is "rogue capitalism" whose psychological manipulation techniques rob us of our free will, as machine learning systems use surveillance data to foreclose on our ability to formulate free choices. But when you look closely at what Big Tech does with its data, a very different picture arises: it overcollects our data because it yields such poor and temporary insights into our behavior; tech's data hunger reflects the limited power of that data, not its potency.

But that doesn't mean that commercial surveillance isn't dangerous: it is. Firstly, because commercial surveillance is state surveillance's handmaiden, with governments plundering private databases at will; and secondly, because the knowledge of being watched alters our behavior in ways that robs us of dignity and the power to think freely.

Big Tech *does* take away our right to choose, but not through manipulation. Rather, Big Tech steals our right to choose by monopoly. That's why the EU's Copyright Directive -- which will clear the field of small enterprises that might challenge Big Tech's dominance -- is such a catastrophe. We need a vigorous, muscular form of antitrust that goes beyond merely fining firms and actually splits them up.