Evgeny Morozov: Hello every­body, and thank you very much for com­ing. I’m very hap­py to back to Stockholm. To be hon­est, I’ve been some­what sur­prised to have been invit­ed to this con­fer­ence, most­ly for two rea­sons. First of all I’ve seen on the web site that you’ve been promised inspi­ra­tional keynotes. And the very last thing that I’ve ever been accused of is pro­vid­ing inspi­ra­tion. Usually it’s bouts of depres­sion that fol­low my talks. So I have warned you in advance.

And sec­ond, it’s also a bit odd for me to be talk­ing at an event that has Internet” in its title, in part because I’ve become some­what noto­ri­ous over the last few years for actu­al­ly chal­leng­ing the idea that talk­ing about the Internet in abstrac­tion from the cor­po­rate and gov­ern­ment forces that have so far defined its exis­tence is a good way to start the conversation.

So the rea­son why I am often accused of being a skep­tic or a crit­ic or some kind of a techno­phobe is not because I reject tech­nol­o­gy or reject mobiles or reject any­thing that has dig­i­tal com­po­nents in it. It’s because I am deeply skep­ti­cal over where the bal­ance of pow­er between cor­po­ra­tions, the states, and the cit­i­zens lies at this point in his­to­ry. And I think that what we are see­ing with the fur­ther advance­ment of dig­i­ti­za­tion is an even fur­ther shift of pow­er from cit­i­zens to cor­po­ra­tions and part­ly gov­ern­ments, most­ly in its nation­al secu­ri­ty and sur­veil­lance com­po­nents. While cit­i­zens actu­al­ly do not see their own dis­em­pow­er­ment, believ­ing that that tech­nol­o­gy empow­ers them in ways that they have nev­er seen before.

So this is sort of the ide­o­log­i­cal and polit­i­cal back­ground from which I come. So I don’t think of myself as a tech­nol­o­gy skep­tic. So, I do think that we have to for­mu­late a response to the chal­lenge and to the offer, which is very tempt­ing, that Silicon Valley—and at this point I think it’s the cut­ting edge of what tech­nol­o­gy can accom­plish today—we have to make an offer and a coun­terof­fer to the pro­gram that Silicon Valley has put in front of us.

So let me say a few words about how I see that offer. Why I think a lot of gov­ern­ments are actu­al­ly quite on board with it. Why they’re so eager to get in bed with a lot of tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies. And what we as cit­i­zens and as social move­ments and as peo­ple who do not entire­ly want to see the trans­for­ma­tion of our world into a world run entire­ly by American cor­po­ra­tions can still do to pre­vent that.

So, if you look at the appeal that Silicon Valley has to a lot of us, and to a lot of pub­lic insti­tu­tions espe­cial­ly, I think you can under­stand that the rea­son for that appeal is very sim­ple. They can offer ser­vices that work, that work in a very effec­tive man­ner, and that are offered more or less either very cheap or are most­ly offered for free, right. And we know where that tech­ni­cal, nom­i­nal free­dom comes from. It comes from the fact that they have found a way to con­vert that data that is gen­er­at­ed in the con­text of using those plat­forms and ser­vices into some­thing valu­able that can then be sold on the adver­tis­ing market.

That explains how a lot of the ser­vices of the infor­ma­tion sec­tor, whether it’s search, whether it’s email, whether it’s any­thing that involves some kind of exchange of data, can be offered either below their cost or actu­al­ly for free. That’s at the heart of the busi­ness mod­el of Facebook. That’s at the heart of the busi­ness mod­el of Google and so forth. 

That means that if you try to think about what would an alter­na­tive non-corporate mod­el for the pro­vi­sion of those ser­vices look like, or what it looked like before, you’d prob­a­bly arrive at a very dif­fer­ent mod­el, right. And we knew it from oth­er insti­tu­tions that we had before. Libraries, the post office, and so forth—previous insti­tu­tions that sought to pro­vide some kind of an alter­na­tive func­tioned on a very dif­fer­ent log­ic. When it came to com­mu­ni­ca­tion their mod­el was very dif­fer­ent. It’s either that we paid for those with our taxes—and you’ll know the sto­ry rel­a­tive­ly well in Sweden. Or we paid for them with some kind of oth­er con­tri­bu­tions like stamps in the case of the post office, and so forth.

It was a direct exchange of mon­ey and cash. Data was not involved. Advertising was not involved. There was no way to basi­cal­ly link our con­sump­tion of infor­ma­tion at a local lev­el with the glob­al finan­cial and adver­tis­ing mar­ket. It was impos­si­ble to link what was hap­pen­ing at the lev­el of your local post office with the inter­ests of giant cor­po­ra­tions oth­er than by the means of exchang­ing money.

Right now, that prob­lem has been solved. Virtually every sin­gle act, vir­tu­al­ly every sin­gle trans­ac­tion that we engage in can be linked to the glob­al finan­cial mar­kets, glob­al adver­tis­ing mar­kets, and so forth. And com­pa­nies like Google and Facebook are exploit­ing it quite well. So basi­cal­ly if Google was asked to serve as an alter­na­tive to the post office six­ty or eighty years ago, their mod­el of ser­vice pro­vi­sion would be very dif­fer­ent and might scare some of us and some of us might embrace it. They would just come and say, Well, if you want to send a let­ter, great. You don’t need to buy the stamps. We’ll just open the let­ter, have a robot read it, insert the rel­e­vant adver­tis­ing into it, put your let­ter back into the enve­lope, and for­ward it to its recipient.” 

That’s more or less the mod­el on which many of the ser­vices work today. And for var­i­ous rea­sons— And the main rea­son I would argue is that the state or oth­er alter­na­tive pub­lic social com­mu­nal insti­tu­tions have with­drawn from the sec­tor alto­geth­er. Silicon Valley at this point is the only play­er capa­ble of offer­ing these ser­vices. So we are more or less stuck with this new mod­el which engages and involve 247 sur­veil­lance and the abil­i­ty to con­vert the data gen­er­at­ed in the con­text of the use of those plat­forms into some­thing that can then pay for their provision.

I would argue that as we move on and dig­i­ti­za­tion of soci­ety advances, so that sen­sors appear in vir­tu­al­ly all oth­er parts of our exis­tence— Whether its our homes, whether it’s our cities, whether it’s our cars, whether it’s our ther­mostats, you name it. Virtually every sin­gle aspect of our exis­tence soon­er or lat­er will be cap­tured, dig­i­tized, ana­lyzed, and so forth. As those process­es hap­pen, what we are going to see is that the same mod­el that cur­rent­ly under­writes our email and our search will also start under­writ­ing (from a finan­cial per­spec­tive) the pro­vi­sion of those oth­er services.

So I think it’s not entire­ly unrea­son­able to expect that these com­pa­nies will become the key inter­me­di­aries when it comes to the pro­vi­sion of oth­er ser­vices. Healthcare, edu­ca­tion, trans­porta­tion, you name it. Anything that involves some kind of data-intensive ser­vice pro­vi­sion (And at this point it’s hard to think of key sec­tors like edu­ca­tion, health, trans­porta­tion, ener­gy con­sump­tion as being any­thing oth­er than a data-intensive ser­vice.), we will see these new cor­po­rate, American, dig­i­tal inter­me­di­aries grab­bing a big chunk of the pie and offer­ing a lot of ser­vices which tech­ni­cal­ly look free, right? And which offer to us some basic diag­nos­tics, but they offer it on a very dif­fer­ent mod­el than the pre­vi­ous mod­el of health­care, edu­ca­tion, and ener­gy that we knew in Europe before. 

And again I don’t want to get into a very long dis­cus­sion about the ben­e­fits and the down­sides of the wel­fare state, which in the case of Sweden would be a very com­pli­cat­ed dis­cus­sion. But let me just say that in the case of Silicon Valley, the mod­el on which the entire sys­tem oper­ates is very sim­ple. It’s very indi­vid­u­al­is­tic in its char­ac­ter in that the only data that more or less is being gath­ered, ana­lyzed, and trad­ed (for finan­cial rea­sons) is data about indi­vid­u­als. So your own per­son­al lifestyle behav­ior is being analyzed. 

If you think for exam­ple about all these health­care apps which seek to ana­lyze how [much] exer­cise you do every day, how many steps you take, what food do you eat, how much phys­i­cal ener­gy you burn and so forth. The only actor that’s present in this ana­lyt­i­cal frame­work is the indi­vid­ual cit­i­zen. And it’s our behav­ior that’s being ana­lyzed, and then tin­kered with, through all sorts of com­plex nudges and oth­er types of behav­ioral mod­i­fi­ca­tions that are served to us by those apps, while oth­er actors, in oth­er parts of the sociopo­lit­i­cal milieu, if you will, are being slow­ly kind of fad­ed out and dis­card­ed from the analy­sis altogether.

So we’re no longer talk­ing about the prob­lem of big phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies in shap­ing the health agen­da. We’re no longer talk­ing about the pow­er of big food cor­po­ra­tions in actu­al­ly shap­ing what we eat and what you don’t eat. We’re no longer talk­ing about how our cities are designed to facil­i­tate or not facil­i­tate walk­ing, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, and so forth. All of those issues sud­den­ly are los­ing in impor­tance as vir­tu­al­ly all of the impor­tance and all of the efforts are attached to gov­ern­ing just one part of the sys­tem, which is the individual.

I would argue that this kind of offer is very amenable and very pleas­ant for a lot of gov­ern­ments to receive, in part because they are fac­ing very tough prob­lems when it comes to actu­al­ly financ­ing the pro­vi­sion of many of these ser­vices. You’ll know the sit­u­a­tion very well in Northern Europe and in Europe as a whole. It’s no longer afford­able to keep the kind of health, edu­ca­tion, and oth­er social wel­fare sys­tems that we had before with­out doing some major alter­ations in it. In part because its soci­eties are aging, there’s an influx of new peo­ple com­ing in, part­ly because of the human­i­tar­i­an crises that we are hav­ing. There are a lot of oth­er costs that sud­den­ly could not be cov­ered because the pub­lic mon­ey has gone else­where because of the aus­ter­i­ty agen­das, bud­get cuts, and so forth.

So sud­den­ly, we find our­selves in a sit­u­a­tion where we have a lot of gov­ern­ments who are keen to make deals and alliances with a lot of these tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies for the sole rea­son that it will allow them to basi­cal­ly pro­vide some kind of resem­blance to the same health and edu­ca­tion and trans­porta­tion ser­vices that they offered in the past, while con­tin­u­ing with the project of pri­va­ti­za­tion that they them­selves are very keen on to advance for oth­er ide­o­log­i­cal reasons.

So we end up in this high-tech, inno­v­a­tive cap­i­tal­ism where­by more and more of the ser­vices are pulled into the hands of pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions. Individuals are being told that they’re being empow­ered because sud­den­ly they can mon­i­tor their health, they can mon­i­tor every sin­gle aspect of their lifestyle—energy con­sump­tion and so forth—while at the same time play­ers who might actu­al­ly be respon­si­ble for the prob­lems that cur­rent­ly exist and sur­round us get away scot free. All of the lob­by­ists, cor­po­ra­tions, politi­cians, and so forth that I mentioned. 

And for me this is a very trou­bling devel­op­ment which I think needs to be coun­tered. And it needs to be coun­tered very strate­gi­cal­ly and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. And the only way to do that is by actu­al­ly ana­lyz­ing how come all of these com­pa­nies in Silicon Valley (and we see a few of them emerg­ing in Europe as well, but at some­what slow­er pace when it comes to the pro­vi­sion of those ser­vices) how come all of those ser­vices enjoy such giant val­u­a­tions on the finan­cial mar­kets with­out actu­al­ly own­ing or pro­duc­ing any­thing by way of phys­i­cal assets?

You look at a com­pa­ny like Uber, it’s worth, on what­ev­er day you look at it, some­where between six­ty and sev­en­ty bil­lion dol­lars US, with­out own­ing any cars, with­out actu­al­ly employ­ing any dri­vers, and with­out own­ing much by way phys­i­cal assets. And we have to under­stand where does val­ue in these com­pa­nies come from. And in a lot of them, a huge chunk of the val­ue I would argue comes from the fact that they’re sit­ting on tons of data that they have accu­mu­lat­ed from our use of their ser­vices. And I would argue that unless we man­age to polit­i­cal­ly and the­o­ret­i­cal­ly under­stand what role does user data that have already been accu­mu­lat­ed by the likes of Google play in the pro­vi­sion of their ser­vices and in the high val­u­a­tions that they enjoy, we would nev­er be able to under­stand where would new forms of exploita­tion in this new hyper­cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my come from.

And for me it’s clear that if future move­ments that would like to con­test this new mod­el— And that is very lit­tle to like about it, by the way. If you look at a com­pa­ny like Uber— And I know that it’s some­thing that Europe still thinks they can sort of push away— And I think that will be a very tough fight because in Europe there are two almost schiz­o­phrenic parts fight­ing for dom­i­nance. You have a lot of politi­cians who would actu­al­ly be very hap­py with the American mod­el of dereg­u­lat­ed finan­cial, infor­ma­tion­al cap­i­tal­ism, where you have free flow of data between dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ments, between dif­fer­ent nations-states, between dif­fer­ent local­i­ties and so forth on infra­struc­ture that is run by a hand­ful of pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions, and peo­ple who can only con­ceive of them­selves as indi­vid­ual entre­pre­neurs— I mean there are such politi­cians in Europe and in Sweden, and you prob­a­bly know who they are. 

And then there are oth­ers, who under the pres­sure of trade unions and all sorts of oth­er insti­tu­tions, includ­ing by the way a lot of European com­pa­nies who are not hap­py with Silicon Valley, are try­ing to push back. Not nec­es­sar­i­ly to cre­ate some kind of alter­na­tives in the inter­est of cit­i­zens or the peo­ple, but sole­ly to kick the American giants away from Europe and to make sure that they can­not oper­ate in places which are cur­rent­ly dom­i­nat­ed by oth­er kinds of com­pa­nies, be that car man­u­fac­tur­ers, banks, media com­pa­nies, and so forth. All of whom have final­ly dis­cov­ered and under­stood that unless they take dras­tic action they stand to be dis­rupt­ed much in the same way that pub­lish­ers had been dis­rupt­ed thir­ty years ago. If you talk to car man­u­fac­tur­ers, if you talk to man­u­fac­tures of many oth­er prod­ucts, if you talk to ener­gy com­pa­nies and oth­ers, all of them are extreme­ly sen­si­tive, all of them are extreme­ly con­cerned about smart ther­mostats, smart cars, and prod­ucts like that.

So we end up in a sit­u­a­tion where we have this some­what schiz­o­phrenic response in Europe where one part wants to con­tin­ue this inte­gra­tion with Silicon Valley, Washington, and trade agree­ments and what­not. And the oth­er part would like to some­what mod­i­fy them to pre­serve the pow­er of incum­bent cor­po­ra­tions. What I think we need to do is to try to artic­u­late what a third way would look like that would actu­al­ly be in the inter­est of cit­i­zens and inter­est of the gen­er­al pub­lic. And the only way to do that, as I’ve said, is to prob­lema­tize the sta­tus of data. And we have to under­stand that if data real­ly is the source of both com­pet­i­tive advan­tage and of val­ue to a lot of these companies… 

And by the way, I do not think that right now you can dis­rupt a com­pa­ny like Google with bet­ter algo­rithms. To me it’s clear that much of the val­ue that Google gen­er­ates to indi­vid­ual users comes from the data on indi­vid­ual users that they have already accu­mu­lat­ed. You can be build­ing an algo­rithm a day in your garage on a dai­ly basis, and you will nev­er out­com­pete Google because it sits on ten years of user data which allows them to per­son­al­ize search results and pro­vide them in a way that no inno­va­tor could poten­tial­ly even com­pete with.

So I mean, there are also com­pet­i­tive aspects here which I think we need to con­sid­er. But the basic point again I would like to empha­size is that we have to under­stand that if that data has a lot of val­ue, and if that data cur­rent­ly gen­er­ates a lot of mon­ey to those com­pa­nies part­ly because of var­i­ous alliances between gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions that have pro­duced this rather anti-competitive field, we have to start move­ments and we have to start par­ties and we have to start at least think­ing if we can­not do it on an insti­tu­tion­al lev­el, about how we can erect some kind of bar­ri­ers, enclo­sures, how­ev­er you want to call it, to pre­vent that data from being sucked in and being treat­ed as a com­mod­i­ty in these giant databases. 

Because this is the data that we are pro­duc­ing in a rather com­mu­nal man­ner very often. If you think about how data’s pro­duced by com­put­ers using pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tems. I’m sure that with­in a cou­ple of years, Uber, Google, what­ev­er com­pa­ny you would like to pick, will find a way to take that data from the sen­sors and inte­grate it into their prod­uct that they will then go and pitch to what­ev­er city is look­ing for a smart city solu­tion to their trans­porta­tion ser­vice. But I’m not sure that that data should belong to them.

And unless we as cit­i­zens man­age to artic­u­late an alter­na­tive vision for data that would not reduce data to the sta­tus of com­mod­i­ty to be sold and bought in the mar­kets, we’ll end up in a sit­u­a­tion where our data enslave­ment and our data depen­dence on these com­pa­nies will only con­tin­ue even fur­ther. Which would also mean that any con­tes­ta­tion of their pow­er will be extreme­ly dif­fi­cult and impos­si­ble. Not just because they will strike lock-in deals with city gov­ern­ments, admin­is­tra­tions and so forth—a fight that we have known ever since the fights around open source and free soft­ware. Data at this point becomes as much a field of strug­gle and con­tes­ta­tion and per­haps even moreso. 

And my fear is that we will end up with just two options here. The first option will be com­pa­nies like Google and Facebook telling us that, You can basi­cal­ly leave your data with us and we’ll pro­vide superb ser­vices based on arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, based on some unique analy­sis of your every­day infor­ma­tion flows, that will make your life eas­i­er by sav­ing you the time.”

If you look at a ser­vice like Google Now, which is Google’s flag­ship ser­vice in autonomous search, what does Google Now do? Google now inte­grates all the streams of data and infor­ma­tion that you’re pro­duc­ing in your every­day life—in you email, in your use of oth­er ser­vices whether it’s Airbnb, Spotify, you name it; a lot of them are Google ser­vices. Google News, YouTube, and so forth. And it seeks to feed your data before you have even real­ized that you have an infor­ma­tion need for it. It’s a way to basi­cal­ly con­stant­ly pre­empt your wants and desires for more infor­ma­tion with infor­ma­tion that’s com­ing from analy­sis of your lifestyle, cal­en­dar, sit­u­a­tion, and so forth. So Google Now will pro­vide you with your trav­el itin­er­aries, weath­er at the des­ti­na­tion where you want to go. It will do cer­tain lit­tle tasks for you, spar­ing you from has­sle in your every­day life and so forth. Which basi­cal­ly means that Google at this point has a very use­ful propo­si­tion to make to many of us and it’s that, Let us mon­i­tor you 247, and what you’re going to get an exchange is free time.” 

This is the propo­si­tion. And the propo­si­tion is that sur­veil­lance, you can con­vert it [into] free time, which means that a lot of peo­ple find it very appeal­ing. Because pre­vi­ous­ly where did you used to get free time? Well, you used to get the time if you worked in a fac­to­ry by basi­cal­ly form­ing a trade union and nego­ti­at­ing with your fac­to­ry employ­er to basi­cal­ly give you some more free time. Social strug­gle for free time used to take many oth­er diverse forms which also involved many oth­er diverse politics. 

At this point, you gen­er­ate free time by con­tin­u­ing with the neolib­er­al project of pri­va­ti­za­tion and sur­veil­lance. This is where free time comes from. Let your­self be mon­i­tored as much as you can, and these com­pa­nies will pro­vide ser­vices which will do cer­tain things for you and mon­i­tor every­thing in your life, and thus basi­cal­ly pre­empt many of the things that you will need to do on your own. Which for a lot of peo­ple is a very appeal­ing vision giv­en that oth­er poten­tial move­ments and actors who could have done some of that, whether it’s trade unions or polit­i­cal par­ties, are no longer capa­ble of those fights. So this is option num­ber 1 that comes from Silicon Valley, and I’m not very hap­py with it.

Option num­ber 2 are oth­er small­er star­tups that are not like Google and are not like Facebook. And they basi­cal­ly tell you data is a com­mod­i­ty, but you can own it. So why don’t you start mon­i­tor­ing your­self any­how on a 247 basis, and we will then hook you up with adver­tis­ers and oth­er peo­ple who’d like to buy your data, and they will pay you directly.

So their goal is to turn all of us into entre­pre­neurs who can make a living—again through sur­veil­lance and mon­i­tor­ing our­selves, but essen­tial­ly we will cut Google, Facebook, and some oth­er inter­me­di­aries out of the equa­tion. That vision of the world I also do not like for polit­i­cal rea­sons. Because by assum­ing that the entire­ty of our life­time should be sub­ject to mar­ket rela­tions and the intru­sion of mar­ket log­ic into our com­mu­ni­ca­tions, to me it’s again the very fron­tier and the cut­ting edge of the neolib­er­al ide­ol­o­gy today. The idea that when I go to the show­er and sing a song I should be think­ing about which adver­tis­er for sham­poo would like to pur­chase that song for me is not nec­es­sar­i­ly a healthy trend or healthy devel­op­ment in mod­ern cap­i­tal­ism. And yet I fear that this is where we’re going, not through the intru­sion of sen­sors into our every­day life but through the intru­sion of finan­cial cap­i­tal­ism in our every­day life. 

And this is what I think a lot of peo­ple mis­un­der­stand. What they think that today we need to be crit­i­ciz­ing is just a bunch of tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies who are act­ing on their own because they don’t under­stand the com­plex­i­ty of human con­di­tion or some­thing like that. This is not at all the case. The only way to make sense of Silicon Valley today… And of the tech­nol­o­gy sec­tor more broad­ly because the tech­nol­o­gy in Europe at this point does not real­ly dif­fer all that much from the log­ic that’s dri­ving Silicon Valley… But the only way to make sense of them is by try­ing to under­stand where it is that they fit into the broad­er scheme of things.

When it comes to things like his­to­ry, when it comes to things like the post-Cold War envi­ron­ment in Europe, when it comes to things like the finan­cial­iza­tion of our economies, when it comes to things like the aus­ter­i­ty agen­da that forces a lot of gov­ern­ments to basi­cal­ly search for technology-based solu­tions because that’s the only way for them to con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the ser­vices that they used to pro­vide in an envi­ron­ment where they no longer have the bud­gets… The only way for us to make sense of the tech­no­log­i­cal nar­ra­tives of today is by rein­scrib­ing them into these more com­pli­cat­ed polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic and his­tor­i­cal frameworks.

The prob­lem is that the very term the Internet” (by attack­ing which I began my inter­ven­tion today) pre­cludes us from that. Because instead of these deeply his­tor­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, and polit­i­cal nar­ra­tives, we end up with a rather sim­plis­tic one which basi­cal­ly tells us that his­to­ry begins thir­ty years ago when the World Wide Web was invent­ed, or TCP/IP is invent­ed, and that oper­ates some­how out­side of the log­ic of gov­ern­ment, out­side of the log­ic of the cor­po­ra­tions, out­side of the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal­ism, out­side of the Cold War. And this is just not the case. Anything from sub­ma­rine cables to sur­veil­lance to com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of data can be eas­i­ly explained by ref­er­ence points in the his­to­ry of cap­i­tal­ism or his­to­ry of the Cold War, with­out hav­ing to imag­ine that we have entered some kind of new world where the log­ics of cap­i­tal­ism or Cold War have been suspended.

So the only mes­sage I can send in con­clud­ing my talk is that we have to be able to treat the Internet not just as a bunch of infra­struc­ture or not just as a bunch of ser­vices. We also have to under­stand what kind of func­tion, what kind of role does it serve to pro­mote and sus­tain cer­tain ide­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions, ide­o­log­i­cal move­ments today. And I’m afraid that at this point we have come to a point where the very term the Internet” pre­cludes us from think­ing big­ger thoughts in oppos­ing some of the big­ger socioe­co­nom­ic trans­for­ma­tions that are on the way. Thank you very much.

Moderator 1: Thank you.

Evgeny Morozov: Sure.

Moderator 2: Thank you, Evgeny Morozov. I was try­ing to think of a new name for my ad-by-mail ser­vice. Do you think it’s a prob­lem that we as users see these ser­vices as some­thing that’s sim­ply free, and we don’t care about the impli­ca­tions? Because when you said that if Google open my mail and they could send it for free if they insert­ed ads I thought, That’s a great busi­ness idea.” A lot of users would prob­a­bly love that.

Morozov: Sure. So I mean look, I come from a school of thought that tries to his­tori­cize every­thing. So for me, there is no use in try­ing to turn this prob­lem into an eth­i­cal or moral dimen­sion where I would say, Users, stop using this infra­struc­ture.” What you should be doing instead as a user is to be ask­ing ques­tions why alter­na­tive infra­struc­tures don’t exist. Why there is no pub­lic mon­ey to build those infra­struc­tures. Why the mon­ey that exists at the European lev­el through var­i­ous lob­bies goes to fund cor­po­ra­tions but not the users.

I mean, for me those are the ques­tions. I do not want to mor­al­ize and tell peo­ple stop using Google and stop using browsers and don’t use your cred­it card and live like Richard Stallman in his office and pay [with] cash for every­thing that you buy. Because ulti­mate­ly that’s a way to be defeat­ed. Because ulti­mate­ly this is not just a ques­tion of ethics. We have to under­stand why cer­tain his­tor­i­cal forces have cre­at­ed the sit­u­a­tion, then we need to oppose them. You’re going to just be oppos­ing the man­i­fes­ta­tions of those sys­tems rather than the sys­tems themselves.

Moderator 2: Thank you very much.

Moderator 1: Great fin­ish. Thank you.