The Information Trade
How Big Tech Conquers Countries, Challenges Our Rights, and Transforms Our World
"A timely, compelling, and expertly researched passport to the tech companies that rule today's digital landscape."—Blake Harris, bestselling author of Console Wars and The History of the Future.
In this provocative book about our new tech-based reality, political insider and tech expert Alexis Wichowski considers the unchecked rise of tech giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla—what she calls “net states”— and their unavoidable influence in our lives. Rivaling nation states in power and capital, today’s net states are reaching into our physical world, inserting digital services into our lived environments in ways both unseen and, at times, unknown to us. They are transforming the way the world works, putting our rights up for grabs, from personal privacy to national security.
Combining original reporting and insights drawn from more than 100 interviews with technology and government insiders, including Microsoft president Brad Smith, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the former Federal Trade Commission chair under President Obama, and the managing director of Jigsaw—Google’s Department of Counter-terrorism against extremism and cyber-attacks—The Information Trade explores what happens we give up our personal freedom and individual autonomy in exchange for an easy, plugged-in existence, and shows what we can do to control our relationship with net states before they irreversibly change our future.
Wichowski, an adjunct professor of technology at Columbia University, reveals how "net states" ("tech entities that act like countries") are changing "defense, diplomacy, public infrastructure, and citizen services," in this eye-opening debut. Examining recent acquisitions made by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Tesla, Wichowski explores the roles that major tech companies now play in space travel, health monitoring, biotech, and manufacturing. She describes how the original "tech ethos" of "creat some good in the world" now drives net states to take on huge projects, such as providing new energy infrastructure in Puerto Rico and investing in asteroid mining companies, where they act like sovereign states but lack the permanence and accountability of governments. Wichowski warns that the status quo, in which "citizen-users" of tech platforms must "relinquish their right to privacy" is unsustainable, and proposes a Declaration of Citizen-User Rights for reclaiming personal power that's been given away in exchange for convenience. Wichowski's detailed reporting and careful attention to the big picture make for a quick and thought-provoking reading experience. This erudite analysis should be required reading for tech CEOs, policy makers, and everyone concerned about the ubiquity of a handful of companies in their daily lives.