Data Grab: The New Colonialism of Big Tech and How to Fight Back (Hardcover)

Data Grab: The New Colonialism of Big Tech and How to Fight Back By Ulises A. Mejias, Nick Couldry Cover Image
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A compelling argument that the extractive practices of today’s tech giants are the continuation of colonialism—and a crucial guide to collective resistance.
Large technology companies like Meta, Amazon, and Alphabet have unprecedented access to our daily lives, collecting information when we check our email, count our steps, shop online, and commute to and from work. Current events are concerning—both the changing owners (and names) of billion-dollar tech companies and regulatory concerns about artificial intelligence underscore the sweeping nature of Big Tech’s surveillance and the influence such companies hold over the people who use their apps and platforms.
As trusted tech experts Ulises A. Mejias and Nick Couldry show in this eye-opening and convincing book, this vast accumulation of data is not the accidental stockpile of a fast-growing industry. Just as nations stole territories for ill-gotten minerals and crops, wealth, and dominance, tech companies steal personal data important to our lives. It’s only within the framework of colonialism, Mejias and Couldry argue, that we can comprehend the full scope of this heist.
Like the land grabs of the past, today’s data grab converts our data into raw material for the generation of corporate profit against our own interests. Like historical colonialism, today’s tech corporations have engineered an extractive form of doing business that builds a new social and economic order, leads to job precarity, and degrades the environment. These methods deepen global inequality, consolidating corporate wealth in the Global North and engineering discriminatory algorithms. Promising convenience, connection, and scientific progress, tech companies enrich themselves by encouraging us to relinquish details about our personal interactions, our taste in movies or music, and even our health and medical records. Do we have any other choice?
Data Grab affirms that we do. To defy this new form of colonialism we will need to learn from previous forms of resistance and work together to imagine entirely new ones. Mejias and Couldry share the stories of voters, workers, activists, and marginalized communities who have successfully opposed unscrupulous tech practices. An incisive discussion of the digital media that’s transformed our world, Data Grab is a must-read for anyone concerned about privacy, self-determination, and justice in the internet age.

About the Author

Ulises A. Mejias is professor of communication studies at the State University of New York at Oswego and the coauthor of The Costs of Connection: How Data Is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating It for Capitalism

Nick Couldry is professor of media, communications, and social theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science and faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. He is the coauthor of The Costs of Connection: How Data Is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating It for Capitalism.

Praise For…

“I wish that Data Grab was required reading when I was a graduate student working in the field of AI. Perspectives like these are crucial if we are to break the colonial paradigm that pervades computing disciplines.”
— Timnit Gebru, founder of the Distributed AI Research Institute

“In this essential and original work, Mejias and Couldry lay out a powerful and persuasive analysis of the logical continuity between modern colonialism and the extraction of data by Big Tech and its platforms. Their call to resist data colonialism could not be more urgent or more timely.”
— Jeremy Gilbert, author of Hegemony Now: How Big Tech and Wall Street Won the World

“Mejias and Couldry have long been at the forefront of revealing the hidden power structures at play in our data-fueled digital era. With their new book Data Grab, they once again deliver their much-needed incisive analysis. They gift us with the vocabulary to understand—and thus resist—the extractive forces turning our bodies and lives into objects of datafication. Their words arrive right on time as we begin to navigate the latest wave of artificial intelligence.”
— Karen Hao, contributing writer for The Atlantic

Data Grab offers a fascinating and accessible exploration of how our colonial history drives today’s data landscape. It not only puts current data injustices and cruelties into context, it charts a path for how we might resist.”
— Bruce Schneier, author of A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend Them Back

Data Grab is a remarkable text; moving far beyond disabling alarmism or rhetoric that overly catastrophizes the world of Big Tech, it helps us understand the historical and ongoing relations of power and extraction that have now proceeded to the realm of data, as a new raw material that supports neocolonial interests and amplifies inequalities. Far from merely tracing these important connections, Mejias and Couldry place us on a path to recognize ongoing patterns and how to resist and challenge them.” 
— Ramesh Srinivasan, author of Beyond the Valley: How Innovators around the World are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow

“This elegant, lucid work distills the common themes linking data colonialism to previous forms of colonialism, while also provocatively cataloguing differences. Essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the political economy of Big Tech, Big Data, Big Compute, and (the coming) Big AI.”
— Julie E. Cohen, author of Between Truth and Power: The Legal Constructions of Informational Capitalism

“Mejias and Couldry provide a terrifying and well researched account of how our personal data are being extracted and exploited for corporate profit. This data grab concentrates wealth and power in the Global North, encages us all in consumer bubbles, and erodes our privacy. More than a compelling read, Data Grab is also a call to arms for how we can reclaim our humanity and resist becoming ground up as grist for the data mills.”
— Ifeoma Ajunwa, author of The Quantified Worker

“As in their previous work, Mejias and Couldry show how important it is to take the perspective of the colonized, not the colonizer, in explaining how the digital world is governed. Data Grab offers important insights into how we should analyze power and counter-power in terms of data control. I particularly recommend this book for providing examples of local and vocal initiatives across various continents. A true eye-opener.”
— José van Dijck, Utrecht University

“A blistering, vital exposure of the predatory world of data colonialism. In this vivid and passionately written book, Mejias and Couldry urge us to wake up to the invasive and extractive world of today’s Big Tech.”
— Mike Savage, London School of Economics

“A brilliant account both of colonialism and Big Tech, and a bold and provocative argument that the latter is a version of the former because of the way it dispossesses people of what should be theirs: data about their lives. It is furiously precise about the crimes of the European colonial system, and illuminating on how opaque and unaccountable tech industries shape our world.”
— David Hesmondhalgh, author of The Cultural Industries

Product Details
ISBN: 9780226832302
ISBN-10: 0226832309
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: March 14th, 2024
Pages: 224
Language: English