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There's a lot of talk these days about the effects of money in politics, in the US, in Europe and elsewhere. Looking at the US historically, the rich have always exerted power top down. They could buy the media, as Rupert Murdoch has. You could buy politicians and purchase influence in that way.
But these days with the tech titans of Silicon Valley there's a new way of exerting power. And that's the bottom up way that is part and parcel of their business model of surveillance capitalism. The business model of micro-targeted advertising, and the way in which tech firms follow us around the internet, and increasingly offline via GPS and our handsets, and use that to build a sort of a voodoo doll profile of us, which can then be sold to advertisers and the highest bidders, companies and public entities, that is really a different kind of power. It allows tech firms to divide and conquer us in new ways.
And in some ways that's really what worries people about money in politics now. It's not so much that Mark Zuckerberg is having secret meetings with Donald Trump. It's that Facebook itself can target us, as consumers or even as citizens, at a very individual level. That's something that's quite different. And that's also something that antitrust policy is not really equipped to address.
I used to think it was radical, the idea of possibly banning micro-targeting or limiting surveillance capitalism. But I'm beginning to think that it may be one of the most important levers that we have in controlling monopoly power and the partisan politics that we have today.