Giving by Taking Away: Big Tech, Data Colonialism, and the Reconfiguration of Social Good

João Carlos Magalhães, Nick Couldry


Big Tech companies have recently led and financed projects that claim to use datafication for the “social good.” This article explores what kind of social good it is that this sort of datafication engenders. Drawing mostly on the analysis of corporate public communications and patent applications, it finds that these initiatives hinge on the reconfiguration of social good as datafied, probabilistic, and profitable. These features, the article argues, are better understood within the framework of data colonialism. Rethinking “doing good” as a facet of data colonialism illuminates the inherent harm to freedom these projects produce and why, to “give,” Big Tech must often take away.


datafication, social good, Big Tech, data colonialism, political economy

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