Post-Capitalist Tech

Google's work on drones for DoD; how Best Buy's Geek Squad fed info to the FBI; and more.


  • Public-private partnerships: Google is working with the Department of Defense on building artificial intelligence to process and analyze aerial drone footage, Kate Conger and Dell Cameron report for Gizmodo. Writing for The Intercept, Lee Fang points out that the contract with Google was routed through a staffing company in Northern Virginia.

  • For the past 10 years or more, the Best Buy Geek Squad has been working with the FBI to alert the agency about potentially illegal material on the computers they are paid to repair, Aaron Mackey reports for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, potentially infringing on the computers’ owners Fourth Amendment rights.

  • A conservative filmmaker is working on a documentary on how tech companies are censoring right-wing speech online, part of a swell of criticism of Big Tech from the right, Michael Grynbaum and John Herrman report for The New York Times.

  • Cory Doctorow is glad the techlash is here at last. In an essay for Locus, he argues that the dichotomy between pro-tech and anti-tech isn’t helpful, and that science fiction can help us work out, not whether we should or should not tech, but which technology we should use. “The question of what postcapitalist tech, or noncapitalist tech, or even mixed-market tech would look like is up for grabs,” he writes. “It’s easy to see the self-serving logic of insisting that such a thing could not exist: if you’ve just raised millions with the hope of getting rich yourself, insisting that your technology’s apparent avarice is an unfortunate necessity, rather than a choice you’ve made, can buy you a modicum of respectability.”

  • “My job is to make sure there is quality news on Facebook and that publishers who want to be on Facebook … have a business model that works,” Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said at a tech conference last month. “If anyone feels this isn’t the right platform for them, they should not be on Facebook.” Well then! As Nitasha Tiku reports for Wired, news publishers just might get another bargaining chip to use in their increasingly tense relationships with Facebook: an exemption from antitrust enforcement so that they can collectively negotiate with Big Tech companies over content distribution. Don’t get too excited though: the passage of such a law will be an uphill battle.

  • The publishers who went all-in on Facebook are the ones hurting the most, Max Willens reports for Digiday. And while I struggle to work up concern about declining visitor numbers to websites like 9gag and Bored Panda, it still doesn’t feel great when one company’s decision can mean life or death for publishers like LittleThings.

  • Internet of Shit: Motherboard’s Kim Zetter explains how Cortana lets hackers install malware on your password-protected Windows machines.

  • Laura James compiled a master list of pledges and oaths that the aspiring ethical technologist can take, from the Archimedean Oath and the Asilomar AI Principles to The Obligation of the Engineer and The Programmer’s Oath.

  • This is civic tech: A new map by the public spaces advocacy group 596 Acres shows all the plots of land sold by the city for just a dollar, Rachel Dovey reports for NextCity. The map allows people to zoom in on individual sales, which are color-coded by the type of developer who won the property: for-profit, non-profit, or a mixed developer group.

  • 10 years after Santa Fe voters approved a system in which officials would be elected by a ranked ballot, they finally elected Alan Webber, the founder of Fast Company, by that method, Morgan Lee reports for the Associated Press.

  • Your moment of zen.