Draining The Data Swamp: Who Owns The "Virtual You"?

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

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 polls specialist.

And it’s certainly very much a political issue how cyberspace trumps actual physical space. GAFA is always looking for nations that offer comparative advantages and privileges to dodge regulation and annoying redistributive fiscal obligations.

That betrays a clear ideological choice. GAFA is all about Ayn Rand-inspired Libertarianism; minimum government and maximum freedom. Surf away from the crashing waves of the state. Regulation is for losers.

Ayn Rand happens to be the supreme idol of PayPal’s Peter Thiel, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Wikipedia co-creator Jimmy Wales.

And then there’s philosophy great Martin Heidegger.

Peter Thiel, Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman, Instagram inventor Mike Krieger – they all followed the Symbolic Systems program established in Stanford in 1986 combining neurosciences, logic, psychology, AI, cybernetics and, yes, philosophy, with an emphasis on Heidegger.

Add to it the role of Pluralistic Networks, founded by Chilean Fernando Flores, a former minister of Salvador Allende and co-author, with Terry Winograd (Google’s Larry Page’s mentor) of a book about Heidegger’s influence on information science, redefining intelligence, language and the limits of biology. Here we have Heidegger as the precursor of AI.

Liberal democracy vs freedom?

One of the big shows in Brussels for years has been the debate on why GAFA refuses to pay taxes. Libertarianism is incompatible with direct tax deductions or regulations. What matters most of all is the philanthropic value of those entrepreneurs and their social importance in creating jobs.

European egalitarian cynics, on the other hand, would describe them as a bunch of moguls bloated by un-measurable hubris praying to a doctrine of sovereign egotism.

GAFA + Microsoft’s market capitalization reached a whopping $2.9 trillion last year – bigger than India’s GDP; their collected revenues are larger than Sweden’s GDP.

According to the OECD, globally, states are not collecting as much as  $240 billion a year in taxes. According to a 2015 report from the European Parliament, the EU loses as much as 70 billion euros a year because of “fiscal optimization,” due uniquely to the transfer of GAFA profits towards fiscal paradises.

So what we have is GAFA working as political parties, actively changing the world without ever submitting themselves to a vote. It’s a case of “freedom” being incompatible with Western liberal democracy. That’s exactly what PayPal founder Peter Thiel wrote in 2009; “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”

In The Black Box Society (Harvard University Press), Frank Pasquale stresses how the industry, facing no accountability, will end up risking the very own legitimacy of sovereign states.

Which brings us to the monopoly question. Zuckerberg was asked if he considered Facebook a monopoly. Brussels certainly does, in its drive to regulate an economic model based on systematic smashing of competition and limitless privatization of personal data (which the EU has been unable to stop). Once again Peter Thiel, one of Facebook’s earliest investors: “Competition is for losers.”

The main complaint in Brussels, as officials stressed to Asia Times, is that the EU’s “fair competition” model is being corroded. Yet the paradox is the EU – because of ferocious fiscal competition – is actually the largest tax paradise on the planet.

The EU condemns international tax evasion while the enemy inside is represented by Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ireland – a sort of Bermuda Triangle of corporate tax. The savory combination of a single free market and a sophisticated service economy in which almost no physical goods cross borders offers unlimited opportunities for tax evasion. No wonder the digital giants have accumulated over $600 billion in tax-free profits.

The limits of ‘self-ownership’

While GAFA in the US essentially controls the politics limiting the capacity for regulation, Brussels will continue to insist the only path towards healthy regulation comes from the EU.

The other model is of course China. Beijing has domesticated its sprawling digital industry – which is a de facto extension of the state apparatus as well as a growing instrument of global influence.

When Zuckerberg was asked whether Facebook should be broken up – the monopoly issue once again – he said that would weaken the US’s competitive advantage against China, which by the way is fast disappearing.

Facebook’s customer base though is not American; it’s global. Inside the Facebook HQ, the consensus is that it is a global company. So all these issues at stake – from monopoly to regulation to privacy – are indeed global issues.

Zuckerberg dodged extremely serious questions. Who owns “the virtual you?” Zuckerberg’s response was that you own all the “content” you upload, and can delete that content any time you want. Yet the heart of the matter is the advertising profile Facebook builds on each user. That simply cannot be deleted. And the user cannot alter it in any way.

The GAFA galaxy, in fact, owns you when you click accepting those massive terms and conditions of use. As argued by philosopher Gaspard Koenig, director of the GenerationLibre think tank in France, data property should logically follow the evolution of property rights, land property, financial property and property of ideas, thus replacing the current figure of the “proletarian 2.0” at the heart of the value chain of the digital economy.

The whole debate may revolve in fact about algorithmic determinism. Every algorithmic model is influenced by economic and financial interests. “Our” data is de facto monetized by all those massive, user-friendly platforms. The four billion profiles generated every three months by Facebook are derived from content that real people produce and let Facebook use. Even Zuckerberg himself admitted he cannot lock down his own privacy settings.

Thus the key question that Libertarianism refuses to answer: If “self-ownership” is being configured as the future of our social contract in a secular world, how do we mere consumers profit from our rampant, digital marketization?


khnum Mon, 04/16/2018 - 02:09 Permalink

I have come to the conclusion this whole shebang is now just a mindfuck,I am no longer going to watch television,Ive already lost the hand held device and now Im going to use the computer a lot less,its only going to get worse and I dont want to be sucked in.

philipat Déjà view Mon, 04/16/2018 - 02:43 Permalink

Actually, the US (Delaware Corporations and Real Estate) is the largest money launderer in the world, not Europe.

The only way to extract a fair tax contribution from GAFA is to tax based on revenues per sovereign state, not profirts, which will always be siphoned off via transfer pricing, IP fees, royalties etc through tax havens.

And as for privacy issues, it requires a new business model for GAFA. If the product is free, YOU are the product. They should be forced to allow full opt-outs from ANY data-sharing in exchange for an annual fee, as Sanberg already alluded to. Then we will see just how valuable these services really are on the basis of whether people are prepared to pay good money for them. The problem with even that is, does anybody still really trust them to comply?

In reply to by Déjà view

Adolph.H. philipat Mon, 04/16/2018 - 04:57 Permalink

Valuation is where the twist is. These unicorns have been inflated to the point where anyone not smelling a rat is a total imbecile. 

Next up are revenues: I understand these companies don't want to pay taxes because the money they earn comes directly from governmental agencies from licensing their data (nudge nudge wink wink) and not from reputable third parties. So why paying taxes on money that comes from taxes? That would be stealing from the American government. 

And of course the glamorous valuation and revenues are possibly completely fake and only meant to provide a plausible excuse and create a hype around these glorified websites that are being sold out as we speak for big bucks to gullible dumb fucks who think they are making a fortune whereas given the current economic and political debate in the context of waning American influence over the world they will effectively end up holding the bags for empty shells. 


It's okay not to be a Jew.

In reply to by philipat

Karl Marxist lew1024 Mon, 04/16/2018 - 12:06 Permalink

Always remember our Israeli selected politicians gave the permissions for Israeli owned and run tech giants like Facebook to steal, manipulate and possess everything you do online. Israel choses are "leaders" especially Trump over Clinton. He's a good little Zionist, isn't he? Not speaking too much about the power tech companies have over the very Constitution he "swore" to serve and protect.

In reply to by lew1024

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 khnum Mon, 04/16/2018 - 02:53 Permalink

It is a war for your mind! It is so easy, so insidious. We buy shit because everyone else is buying it, everyone else is watching it, everyone else is listening to it. The thing is it kills your mind. You can't think. You don't really know what you like. I was surprised when I heard Rammstein and Disturbed. I still love metal music!

I quit drinking brewed coffee a few years ago. I make my own mochachinno's at home with organic instant coffee and organic cocoa with organic half-n-half. I make them to taste and no more burnt coffee! Putting that old coffeemaker in a box to take to the thrift store and donate.

I am thinking longer before I buy something, these days. Will I use it? Will it save me money (over hiring someone?) Can I resell the item on EBay or Craigslist?

Same for when I realized I don't like cucumbers. They have this bitter taste which I dislike. How many things do you eat because you grew up eating that crap and everyone in your family eats it? It is crazy as to how many things we do, and eat, and buy because someone in our family ate that item or our friends bought it or we heard it was a cool thing to do. Maybe. Maybe not. Life is too short to do anything you don't want to do. And the one thing you can't get back is time or youth.

In reply to by khnum

Richard640 HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Mon, 04/16/2018 - 08:26 Permalink



 Sherry A. Rogers, M.D.

Macrobiotics: a major tool to heal the impossible

I had over 20 diagnoses for which there still to this day are no known causes and no known cures in medicine. So I figured the first place to start would be to see what folks had used who claimed they had cured their own cancers. When I read Elaine Nussbaum's story, Recovery From Cancer, I then investigated her and many other people who had claimed the same. She is very well today 23 years after her metastatic cancer, against which medicine was totally powerless.

The next step was to see what macrobiotics could do for me. I was dependent upon eleven allergy injections a week for years for migraines, asthma, chronic sinusitis, brain fog, and eczema, triggered by many pollens, dust, molds, foods and chemicals. As well, I had colitis, arthritis, unwarranted depression, exhaustion, and a recent onset of a uselessly painful right shoulder which baffled orthopedic specialists.

I couldn't even raise my arm to brush my hair or pick up a medical chart for six months. Within one month of the strict phase macrobiotic diet, as I described in detail in The Cure Is In the Kitchen, I was windsurfing in the Caribbean, because my shoulder was cured. As well, I've never had or needed another allergy injection. But what macrobiotics did for me is a drop in the bucket, compared with what I saw with hundreds of my patients. I saw people turn on and off like a switch such conditions as multiple sclerosis, severe chemical sensitivities, multiple myeloma and other cancers and conditions.

Sherry A Rogers, M.D., a Diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice, a Fellow of the American College of Allergy and Immunology and a Diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, has been in private practice for over 26 years. She is a lecturer of yearly original scientific material, as well as advanced courses for physicians. She was the keynote speaker for the international symposium Indoor Air Quality 86 in which she described the office method for testing chemical sensitivities. She developed the Formaldehyde Spot Test and published her mold research in three volumes of the ANNALS Of ALLERGY. She has published chemical testing methods in the National Institutes of Health journal, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES. She has published 17 scientific articles, 10 books, and was the environmental medicine editor for INTERNAL MEDICINE WORLD REPORT. 

Medical researchers now have conclusively shown that 95% of all disease, including cancer has only two major causes: diet and environment. We're the first generation of man to have ever eaten so many processed foods low in nutrients. As well we are the first generation to ever tank up on so many chemicals in our air, food, and water. As a result, the work of detoxifying this enormous, yet hidden load, causes the loss of even further nutrients. As well, government EPA studies show that 100% of U.S. humans harbor in their bodies PCBs, dioxins, volatile organic hydrocarbons, pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals, most all of which are potent triggers to cancers. The load is so heavy now that when I was in medical school 35 years ago cancer was rare, the 10th cause of death. Now it is the number two disease to cause death in adults and number one for children ages 1-15. If that doesn't give us a wake-up call that we have done something very nasty to the environment, then I guess nothing will. 

As a result, we have found that as healing as the macrobiotic diet is, many people are too polluted and nutrient-depleted to heal with just the macrobiotic diet alone. As we described in Detoxify Or Die, we show folks how to determine their levels of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and correct them. As well, how to determine their levels of toxicity and get the disease-promoting chemicals out of the body. The beauty is that the combination of the macrobiotic diet, nutritional correction and reversing the level of toxicity has enabled people to heal the impossible. And if they are just plain well, it's the closest thing to the fountain of youth that we can attain, for it restores our levels of health back to where they were decades prior and in fact most are even better. Thank you for the opportunity to bring this information to folks. I've been practicing medicine for 33 years and also offer phone consultations to folks who want guidance through the maze of options. I know that many people are unnecessarily suffering. They haven't a clue that they possess the major control over their health destiny.















In reply to by HRH of Aquitaine 2.0

ImGumbydmmt HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Tue, 04/17/2018 - 08:16 Permalink

"survival is not only knowledge its also having the fitness to carry it out so its got to be done."

+100 quote, thanks

ditto, 51 here and new bike and been tactical training for 4 years, revisiting my infantry years, now in the cascade mountains. fun times.

word of caution.

"plank" exercise is supposed to be great for your core strength, and it is, BUT

we are over 50, plank puts lots of pressure on your elbows, it gave me elbow bursitis and its a real bummer.

support forearms on a mat or pad to keep pressure of the point of your elbow, or expect to get bursitis.

now my wife sticks a needle in my elbow once a week to drain off 10 ml of fluid.

just so I could be able to do 4 minutes of plank....  new years resolution gone to hell.

In reply to by HRH of Aquitaine 2.0

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 zvzzt Mon, 04/16/2018 - 21:39 Permalink

It is probably due to eating stuff that has been grown far away and shipped. I am guessing if I had access to a freshly grown cucumber, they would be fine. It is one of those things that made me start thinking about what tastes good and what doesn't. Lucky for me cucumbers are not in the food pyramid or necessary to life!

In reply to by zvzzt

oneno khnum Mon, 04/16/2018 - 03:37 Permalink

Well the answer to who owns the virtual YOU is already described by the NAME GAME.

1. The NAME appearing on any Certificate issued by a Crown Agent is the intellectual property right of the issuer (Crown/State Corporation). See bottom of page 29 in download version of “Crown Copyright in the Information Age” and page 32 in print version for confirmation that copying the NAME opens to fraud.

2. The Certificate of Birth is a securitized bond containing the signatures of one of the child’s parents and a Crown Agent. (All contracts without full disclosure are fraudulent and thus null and void.) The parents have seven years to declare their child alive in front of a Judge under oath and for the record. Otherwise, the child will be deemed a decedent.

3. The Certificate of Birth is only a receipt copy, given to the parent that offered the signature, as “Proof of Title”. The original Title is retained by the Crown and entered into the Crown’s Register of Births. All certificates are only “Proof of Title” and do not constitute Title. Children have Crown protection and can use the NAME without penalty.

4. Most continue to use that Crown-owned legal identity NAME without permission (license) upon entering the age of majority allowing presumption and assumption that they have “voluntarily” attached themselves as an accessory to that Crown-owned legal identity NAME. Then by legal maximaccessio cedit principali” (an accessory attached to a principal becomes the property of the owner of that principal), they are now deemed to be property (slaves) of the Crown. Now all legislation (written or not) can be imposed upon them to harvest the fruits of their labour and for confiscation of any assets in their possession.

5. It is therefore necessary for each man (independent of gender) to make reference to that legal fiction NAME without allowing presumption or assumption of theft. This is done through the signature with either of the following examples:

Scribe for JANE DOE

I, commonly called “jane of the family doe”, for JANE DOE, for Her Majesty, in right of Province/State

6. The relationship of the legal fiction NAME to the living free will man is only as AGENT holding and collecting in-trust assets belonging to the undisclosed principal, commonly called <“jane henry of the family doe”>, under private contract of agency to allow that principal to sustain his/her life under the rule of private necessity.

7. Any challenge to the signature offered should be reflected with a three document response, sent via registered mail, demanding proof of property right where you the living free will man became a slave to the Crown or State (via Freedom of Information Act):

ASSEVERATION (Will need three witnesses for this document)

If they cannot offer such proof – usually your proof is ‘no response’ – acceptance by ‘silence being acquiescence’ by them of your assertion that you are not a slave owned by the Crown or State.

Summary taken from here.

So YOU do not own anything as the NAME YOU think is yours is Crown intellectual property right. No government agency, bank, or financial institution accepts the signatures suggested above. In fact, they will coerce YOU into a fradulent signature via fraudulent inducement. YOU cannot get a Driver's Licence unless YOU attach yourself to the NAME making yourself, property of the Crown agency.

That house that YOU hold under the legal fiction NAME belongs to the Crown. Same for the Car, unless, YOU asked for and received an unstamped Manufacturer Statement of Origin. And anyway, the roads YOU drive the car on belong to the Province/State Corporation. Same is true for any deposits or securities that YOU have at any financial institution. The word YOU always refers to the legal fiction NAME and NOT the living free-will man who is Scribe for the legal fiction NAME and the Principal owner for all in-trust assets being held under that NAME.

The worst problem is that most are clueless about this fraud. If a sizable number of people became aware of this fraud, then maybe there would be a chance to uncover this unlawful practice.

In reply to by khnum

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Mon, 04/16/2018 - 02:09 Permalink

The author is Pepe Escobar?  The Escobar?  Seriously?

As for GAFA: Google, Apple, Fuckbook, Amazon.

Thiel, and some other developers were influenced by Ayn Rand and Heidigger? Fucking eh. I understand Rand, to a point, but fucking Heidigger? All that fake existentialist bullshit. Oh spare me! There was another modern philosopher, Wittgenstein, as I recall, that washed dishes in his bathtub at Oxford. And Sartre? His great epic tome, "Being and Nothingness" which was followed by nothing. So many fakes and phonies that still prey upon the minds of the young.

SmittyinLA Mon, 04/16/2018 - 03:12 Permalink

We need federal legislation for those that sell data for liabilities that come with selling other people's data, particularly if they know the buyers of that information have nefarious plans, like a national political kill list.

Did Facebook track Seth Rich for 3rd parties? Were they "advertisers"? Or goons?

Golden Showers Mon, 04/16/2018 - 04:19 Permalink

We need an EULA that isn't written in legal speak and goes step by step, screen by screen in whatever language you speak asking if you want to give up your natural god given right here and there. And if you do not, you do not get to use the service. Also, for every instance of every question there ought to be hyperlinks to the data, the prescidents, the court cases, the controversy so that you can make a fully informed decision about the potential outcome of your choice.

It has been said that as much as the Illuminati ,so-called, sucks, they always work off of consent. You consent and they fuck you. Now, it's difficult enough to read this short text. No one reads EULAs. Since no one has gotten this far, Mark Zuckerberg is one ugly piece of shit. The idea that this stupid young asshole could have so much power over user data is insane, or that he thinks he is above board deciding what is just and fair to keep or sell... is way wrong. He's a pervert. Mark is a straight up panty sniffing peeping tom sick fuck. The fact that he doesn't get that is why, perhaps, he hides behind a corporation acting like a child. Hey, you want him to get to your kids? Keep it up.

MusicIsYou Mon, 04/16/2018 - 05:06 Permalink

Only total dopes filled out online profiles about themselves to the best of their ability. It takes a special kind of stupid to zerox themselves and stick their info on the web.

MusicIsYou Mon, 04/16/2018 - 05:06 Permalink

Who owns the virtual me? There is no virtual me, my online presence is full of contradictions, and misconceptions. Even my profile such as my favorite books or authors are not really my favorite. Haha you stupid fckers. To me it's hilariously pathetic that there's millions of people that go online and fill out Facebook profiles etc with absolute seriousness.