In modern times it seems as though it is becoming increasingly impossible to stay disconnected from online platforms. We connect with friends and family through Facebook, keep up with news on Twitter, apply for jobs on LinkedIn and buy any product we want through online stores
When nearly all of a society’s personal and professional communication is digital, nonparticipation is voluntary ostracism.Zach Scott
We often have little alternative but to trust that these companies if we want to participate.
As such, we are currently operating in a digital feudal system, where online tech companies have all the power and users are subjected to their will.
By spending time on these sites and providing them with our personal data we are providing these companies with significant amounts of raw data that they can use practically however they want.
That information is valuable not just to us but particularly to people who want to sell us things.
Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook- the model is the same.
They provide the service for free because we are the product.
We are tracked almost 24/7 and if our information is leaked or stolen in a cyberattack we are powerless to do anything about it.
We sign over our data and property rights to our Internet kings (the Tech Giants) because there is no other option if we want the benefits their sites provide.
This system of digital feudalism poses a serious question. If the number of people and organisations that have all of this power continue to decrease are we headed towards an online monopoly?
Richard Chen (2017) explains that a centralised internet could lead to more censorship, biased information and misinformation (fake news) and certain people being excluded from political and social discourse.
Could industrial consolidation be the downfall of the Internet as we know it?
Chen, R, 2017, Power in the Age of the Feudal Internet, Richard Chen, <https://medium.com/@rchen8/power-in-the-age-of-the-feudal-internet-20e106a2e2ce>
Scott, Z, 2018 ‘Digital Feaudalism’, Towards Data Science, <https://towardsdatascience.com/digital-feudalism-b9858f7f9be5>
Schneier, B, 2013, ‘You Have No Control Over Security on the Feudal Internet’, Harvard Business Review, <https://hbr.org/2013/06/you-have-no-control-over-s>