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Posted By Hastamorir Artists Society

the cloud
“The cloud” suggests something fluffy, white and weightless: a global atmosphere within which our email, social network profiles, images and shared files innocently drift. All of which sounds delightful – but the reality is that every cloud is composed of a vast infrastructure of bunker-like rooms, filled with rack upon rack of servers. And the moment you decide to upload something into this global data warehouse – be it photos of your family or precious documents – you give up many of your rights to ownership.

The overwhelming answer to the first of these questions is convenience: both for users and for companies. Having email, images, files, profiles, information and so on available wherever you go is a massive boon – and one that many users don’t associate with the idea of clouds in the first place. If you’re using any online email service, from Gmail to Outlook or Yahoo, your data is being held on the servers of the company providing that service.

The moment you hit upload, you’ve given away almost every right you might expect to possess over what’s “yours”. Instead, the entitlements and obligations you’re left with will be spelled out in the terms of an almost-certainly-unread licensing agreement with the company who own a service – and who, in most cases, will award themselves the ability to do pretty much anything legal they see fit with your material.

Depending on the country that a company’s servers are located in, moreover, a government will also reserve certain privileges regarding your information: looking inside your old emails without a warrant, perhaps, in the case of US; or locking you up for insulting the monarch in Thailand.

Put like this, it seems astonishing that such privacy isn’t our present default; or that more users aren’t campaigning for the right to make it so. But while even fools are wise after the event, it can be extraordinarily difficult to be wise in advance. After all, who could object to a fluffy, drifting cloud?

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Posted By Hastamorir Artists Society

amazon wearhouse

If Santa had a track record in paying his temporary elves the minimum wage while pushing them to the limits of the EU working time directive, and sacking them if they take three sick breaks in any three-month period, this would be an apt comparison. It is probably reasonable to assume that tax avoidance is not "constitutionally" a part of the Santa business model as Brad Stone, the author of a new book on Amazon,The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

In the wake of the BBC documentary, Hywel Francis, the MP for Aberavon, managed to get a meeting last week with Amazon's director of public policy, a meeting he's been trying to get for years. He's reluctant to speak about the complaints he's heard from his constituents but says that "the plant is exceptional in the local area in having no union representation. It's been a long haul to even get in there and find out what is going on." It's been a black hole where the lack of any checks upon its power has left a sense that everything is pared to the absolute bone – from the cheapest of the cheap plastic safety boots, which most long-term employees seem to spend their own money replacing with something they can walk in, to the sack-you-if-you're-sick policy, to the 15-minute break that starts wherever you happen to be in the warehouse.

We want cheap stuff. And we want to order it from our armchairs. And we want it to be delivered to our doors. And it's Amazon that has worked out how to do this. Amazon isn't responsible for the wider economy, but it's the wider economy that makes the Amazon model so chilling. It's not just the nicey nice jobs that are becoming endangered, such as working in a bookshop, as Hugh Grant did in Notting Hill, or a record store, as the hero did in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, or the jobs that have gone at Borders and Woolworths and Jessops and HMV, it's pretty much everything else too. Next in line is everything: working in the shoe department at John Lewis, or behind the tills at Tesco, or doing their HR, or auditing their accounts, or building their websites, or writing their corporate magazines.




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