They Live Again: Corporate Incursions on Modern Tech

Ever seen John Carpenter’s They Live?

It’s a horror movie where a group of aliens come to Earth and have insinuated themselves into society, working their way up into positions of power and establishing themselves as higher class, the top of the capitalistic food chain. These aliens will continue to spread and gain control at our expense, keeping us distracted by encouraging a culture of constant purchases through consistent, subliminal marketing. It’s a phenomenal film, much like most of Carpenter’s works, and reflected a very real problem brought about by Reaganomics in the ’80s, making fun of Wall Street yuppies and satirizing the marketing-bent nature of our culture.

While the world of that film has still not yet, to our knowledge, come to pass, the thematic issues the film touched upon have only grown in urgency, with corporate control spreading to digital spaces and a warped capitalistic spirit converting online sandboxes into virtual billboards. The recent rollback of net neutrality regulations has resulted in internet service providers (ISPs) being able to throttle services once again by creating fast lanes for corporations that pay a premium, undercutting our free access to the internet in favor of corporate interests.

Guides exist on the internet that allow individuals to track phone numbers worldwide: corporate tracking and data collection tech, we’ve found, is even more advanced, and they’re collecting lots of information about us for marketing purposes without our knowledge or consent. Even the tech we’ve purchased to help us in our daily lives can be bent against our interests, with certain devices meant to restrict our access to services that may serve as competition for the device’s parent company.

There are only two things to do: we can either accept that this is our reality, take the glasses off, and resume business as usual, or we can act to take back our ability to use the internet and our tech however we see fit. Here are a few reliable methods consumers have used to remove corporate restrictions on what they can access.

Obtain a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

ISP throttling is one of the most prevalent and subtle threats to open internet access, as ISPs will quietly choke off your service if you access an application that hasn’t paid their premium. One way to avoid this is to make your activity undetectable even to your ISP, and you can do that by using a VPN. VPNs create a private, encrypted tunnel through which all of your activity is funneled, running it through a remote server: this makes it impossible for your ISP to tell which services you’re accessing, as well as keeping them from tracking your activity to sell for data collection purposes. VPNs have also proven to be effective against most corporate activity tracking methods, although they won’t get rid of cookies.

Jailbreak Your Devices

While the term jailbreaking may invite some trepidation on your part, jailbreaking is a completely legal process that involves the rewriting of your device’s programming to remove unnecessary manufacturer restrictions on the kinds of software it’s compatible with. While this may sound dangerous and can pose a variety of risks, depending on how your device is jailbroken and what kinds of software you use with it, it’s actually a very common practice in the US: so much so that the right to jailbreak was previously enshrined by net neutrality laws. Before attempting to jailbreak your device, make sure you’re using a reputable guide, however, as doing it wrong can really mess your device up.

Access the Usenet

Sometimes switching to an entirely different network, one that corporations aren’t present on and one that is entirely community created and moderated, is exactly the solution you need. Using a newsreader (a browser that allows people to access Usenet), you can access what amounts to a massive database of user-created video and audio content with thousands of thriving communities revolving around every known interest. This network predates the Web so most corporations don’t know the benefits of advertising on Usenet, making it an oasis from digital corporate incursions.

What Are You Here For?

The corporatization of the net is not something we can accept with complacency. While politicians may not be empowered to do something about it, all of us can: we can choose to take efforts to limit third-party incursions on our internet access, and make it harder for them to advertise to us 24/7. If you’re as tired of it as the rest of us, try some of these solutions out: peace is just a few clicks away.

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