Digital Welfare State and Human Rights
Human rights are threatened in the digital welfare state, an example of this will be the case of profiling citizens in the Netherlands. While the Dutch institutions were not looking into fraud and tax issues in big companies for ‘privacy concerns’ : or perhaps fear of their fancy elite lawyers, they have no problem using personal data from ‘the poor’ for risk profiling (SyRI). This has caused a situation where, already vulnerable people have been and will be disadvantaged by the algorithms because of automatic risk profiling and some have already suffered from the, sometimes biased, outcomes of these technological processes. The Dutch system is too busy screwing over their most vulnerable citizens to keep the big money, tax avoiding companies in check #neoliberalismy’all. #thanksRutte. Professor Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights from the UN has been looking into the Dutch system, he stated his worries, and submitted a report. Also check : https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/14/automating-poverty-algorithms-punish-poor
|Summary of the UN report|
|The digital welfare state is either already a reality or is emerging in many countries across the globe. In these states, systems of social protection and assistance are increasingly driven by digital data and technologies that are used to automate, predict, identify, surveil, detect, target and punish. This report acknowledges the irresistible attractions for governments to move in this direction, but warns that there is a grave risk of stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia. It argues that Big Tech operates in an almost human rights free-zone, and that this is especially problematic when the private sector is taking a leading role in designing, constructing, and even operating significant parts of the digital welfare state. The report recommends that instead of obsessing about fraud, cost savings, sanctions, and market-driven definitions of efficiency, the starting point should be on how welfare budgets could be transformed through technology to ensure a higher standard of living for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.|
Cyberwar and hacking Nuclear Powerplants
For interesting content on cyberwar check out the Viceland documentary series called Cyberwar. Episode Israel: Cyber Nation is very interesting. Israel is one of the cyber superpowers in the world, in 2010 they hacked an Iranian nuclear power plant with Stuxnet, changing the way countries wage war.
Cellphones, slavery and suicide
Yes, our phones as well as other technological devices make use of child labour, the cobalt in it is probably mined by a 7 year old child from Congo.
of the world’s cobalt comes from DRC
of DRC’s cobalt comes from artisanal mines
child miners work in southern DRC
also our iphones are probably assembled in factories with circumstances so horrific that people just start killing themselves. Factories took measures by placing suicide nets. Capitalism yeahhh.
Black Mirror examples In Real Life
Besides obviously the episode with social ratings, nosedive, something that became reality in China, (I also experience this myself in a way when working at online freelancer platform Temper where I get rated every time I work, the higher your rating the higher the chance to get another job). There is this pretty awful episode Shut up and Dance where some hacker blackmails a young boy that he has been spying on through the webcam of his laptop. Cybersecurity is the main theme in this episode and cases like this already happen, hackers blackmailing people into anything just by using some footage that they get through their webcams, for example nudes. Check out this documentary called rats&slaves for more info (I think it’s in Dutch sorry).
Some would say the episode The Waldo Moment also came true, a rude, racist ‘cartoonlike’ figure played by a comedian gets elected instead of a real politician.. What a joke right.
The Arkangel episode about parental control and how far a mother goes to try to protect her child for everything bad in the world is already quite realistic with apps like Snoopza allowing parents to check any incoming message, audio or video on every app on the phone of their kid, Facebook, Whatsapp, literally anything, and instantly know their location without a child even knowing their parents can see everything.
The TERRIBLE HORRIBLE Big Four
Apple: “[iPhone] contents are encrypted by default […] But that doesn’t stop the 2 million or so apps in the App Store from spying on iPhone users and selling details of their private lives. “Tens of millions of people have data taken from them — and they don’t have the slightest clue,” says [the] founder of [the] cybersecurity firm Guardian […] The Wall Street Journal studied 70 iOS apps […] and found several that were delivering deeply private information, including heart rate and fertility data, to Facebook.”
Google: “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” —Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt
Amazon: “[The New York Times] claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t either.” —Jeff Bezos, August 17, 2015 letter to staff after the New York Times investigated work conditions at the company.
Facebook: check out my other post .
These are some great topics that I wish we could have had more time to touch on! I often compare real life scenarios to Black Mirror episodes as well. Especially the one with the voting for who should die on twitter episode. We already have that sort of system in which Twitter is used as a public shaming tool. A quick comment about the Shut up and Dance episode however,
***SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN IT***
It wasn’t just that the hackers had videos of him nude, they had videos of him watching child porn. I’m all for hackers blackmailing those kind of scumbags.
Overall, I think many of the themes in Black Mirror are already real, albeit in a more rudimentary state. If you like Black Mirror, check out Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. It is similar to Black Mirror but I believe it to be less dark.
Black Mirror has so much interesting stuff that makes you think about society and technology and life, I really like that.
Totally agree on Shut up and Dance the child porn thing makes it a different and very terrible case, but I guess it also depends on what they would force someone to do, because just asking for money is different than for example blackmailing someone in to committing murder or another crime. Especially the thought that someone spying on you, both watching your screen and webcam, could happen to anyone is quite scary. Some Dutch guy left his laptop open in his livingroom and a hacker that had been spying on him got footage of this guy’s girlfriend coming out of the shower (so naked), then the hacker blackmailed him and when the Dutchie wanted to go to the police it turned out the hacker could also trace his location and anything else on his phone. Scary shit.
Thanks for the tip I do like Black Mirror so will check it out!!