The Surplus Value of Data

Data and ownership of it has increasingly become not just the measure but the object and engine of economic and political power. Corporations and states which do not control it on their own are merely producing it for others. From one perspective, data resembles property, property being, as Proudhon put it, theft, theft from the Commons. From another “neo-Marxist” perspective, data is analogous to “work value”. Our activities are the source of every bit of human data out there, but the value obtained from our data activities is alienated from us in the same way the surplus value of labor is extracted from workers in the old industrial order of things. Concern for privacy, typically turning around a question of “bourgeois” individual rights, is only a sideshow compared to the transformation in social relations occurring before our eyes.