[Plura-list] Call center workers pay for the privilege; Dan Hillier's Six Women/Six Men; Apple kills RSS readers in China

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Oct 2 14:08:59 EDT 2020


I'm doing a two-day "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) with Reddit's Privacy
subreddit to help celebrate its millionth subscriber. Come by from 3PM
Pacific on to participate!



Today's links

* Call center workers pay for the privilege: Propublica breaks open the
massive, secretive abuser Arise, fronted by Disney, Airbnb, Intuit,
Comcast, Carnival and more.

* Dan Hillier's Six Women/Six Men: New "box sets" from the spooky,
brilliant collagist.

* Apple kills RSS readers in China: Chekhov's Law for DRM strikes again.

* This day in history: 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🎃 Call center workers pay for the privilege

If you only learn one technical term from labor economics, make it
"chickenization" - Christopher Leonard's term for the way that the Big
Three poultry processors have structured the chicken-farming industry (I
learned it from Zephyr Teachout).


Here's chickenization: you're a chicken farmer. There is only one
company that can buy your birds, thanks to market concentration. They
tell you how to design and maintain your coop. They sell you the chicks.
They tell you which feed to use, how much and when.

They tell you when the lights go on and when they go off. They tell you
how which vet to use, and which medicines they can use. They bind you to
secrecy through nondisclosure and strip you of the right to sue through

They experiment on you. Your barn is filled with sensors that they
monitor, and they tell you to vary feed, lighting, medicine and other
variables to see if your birds get bigger. They are the only buyer in
your region, so they know how each farmer's birds are thriving.

But if the "independent" farmers ever tried to compare notes, they'd be
violating their nondisclosure agreements and could be sued. Farmers who
complain to regulators are barred from the market.

Once your birds are grown, you bring them to the processor, who exploits
their information asymmetry to figure out how to pay you JUST ENOUGH to
go back to things, but not enough to get ahead. Since chickenization,
poultry farmers have faced a wave of suicides.

Once you know about chickenization, you see it everywhere: crop farmers
are chickenized by seed companies, and Uber drivers are chickenized by
their apps.

The contours of chickenization are impossible to miss: it's a shifting
of all the risk from the employer's side of the balance sheet to the
workers', using the fiction of independent contractorship, the
data-gathering capabilities of digital work, and monopolies.

Today, I learned about the worst chickenization scheme I've ever
encountered: a giant, global company that has chickenized a vast
workforce, but maintains total secrecy, even as it services massive
blue-chip companies from Airbnb to Disney.

That company is Arise, and Propublica and Planet Money just blew the
roof off its ghastly charnel house of a chicken farm by, as Ken
Armstrong, Justin Elliott and Ariana Tobin reported out leaks,
arbitration reports, and whistleblower accounts.


Here's chickenization, Arise style: the company is a outsource phone
support system. Workers have to pay to work for Arise (they're
"independent contractors"): buy a dedicated PC, internet connection and
other equipment.

They have to do weeks of unpaid "training" just to get started, and then
they have to pay more to get specific training for every one of Arise's
giant corporate clients, from AT&T to Carnival Cruises to Comcast to
Disney to Airbnb to Intuit to Barnes and Noble to Ebay.

After passing random, invasive, in-home inspections, after shelling out
thousands of dollars and doing weeks - if not months - of unpaid
training, they are finally eligible to sign up for shifts.

These shifts come in 30 minute slices, widely spaced, and turning them
down gets you blacklisted. It's impossible to hold down another job
while you're an Arise chicken-farmer.

But you don't get paid for 30-minute shifts. You just get paid for the
time that you're talking to customers.

The whole time you talk to a customer, an algorithm is ready to penalize
you: i.e., if it takes too long to deal with queries, or if there're too
many pauses.

Meanwhile, the client's outsource managers randomly (or not-randomly)
listen in on your calls, and they can penalize you too.

The main penalty is being "deskilled" - barred from working for that
client, after paying (in cash and time) to get trained to be their phone

Workers are barred from hanging up on abusive customers. Women report
high levels of sexual harassment, which they have to patiently endure,
because they risk getting fired if they hang up on their abusers.

And all workers are expected to tolerate unlimited abuse from callers.
64% of Arise's workers are people of color. 89% of them are women.
Arise's recruiting ads target Black women in particular.

There *is* a way to get ahead in Arise: recruit other workers. Because,
in addition to everything else, it's a pyramid scheme, and the business
is riddled with people who've been previously convicted of wire fraud.

Nearly every person in the Arise structure is chickenized:. The
following jobs are all performed by "independent contractors":

* Client Support Professionals
* Quality Assurance Performance Facilitators
* Chat Performance Facilitators
* Escalation Performance Facilitators

Not only do you have to pay to work for Arise - you have to pay (a
"contract termination fee") to stop working for them.

Arise binds workers to arbitration, meaning they can't sue. The right of
workers to join class actions in spite of arbitration waivers went to
the Supreme Court in '18, where the illegitimate justice Neal Gorsuch
wrote the majority opinion, ruling against workers.

Arise honors Juneteenth with a day off for all employees. But all those
Black women it has chickenized are independent businesses and are still
expected to show up for work.

Arise's founder is Richard Cherry, a Canadian "serial entrepreneur" who
started off writing scammy get-rich-quick and lose-weight-quick books
before moving to Florida and getting heavily involved with the Home
Shopping Network.

Today, the company is a division of a giant private equity fund, Warburg


🎃 Dan Hillier's Six Women/Six Men

One of my all-time favorite artists is London's Dan Hillier, who has
made a career out of finding public domain engravings, scanning and
cleaning them up, and then making spooky, haunting, grotesque and
infinitely lovely collages out of them.

Hillier has just launched two new projects: "Six Women" and "Six Men," a
pair of "box sets" of  previously released and sold out work in fresh
editions as giclee prints augmented by handpainted, very fine 24K gold
leaf, sold as framed sets.

The sets are limited editions, framed in antique-black finish beech by
Dylan Shipton Frames, and the prints float in behind anti-UV glass. You
can see them in person at Hillier's (distanced/ventimated) Walthamstow
gallery or buy them online:



🎃 Apple kills RSS readers in China

Chekhov exhorted writers not to put a gun onstage unless a character is
going to fire it. But this advice has a corollary for audiences: "If
there's a pistol on the mantelpiece in Act I, it'll go off by Act III."

If only Apple had paid attention.

Apple wasn't the first company to use DRM to prevent users from
installing software on devices without its approval (game consoles did
this for years), but it WAS the first company to popularize the model
for general purpose devices.

Ten years ago, I predicted that once Apple gave itself the power to
decide which software you were allowed to use, governments would start
ordering it to prevent you from using software they didn't like.


Three years ago, Apple kicked aa working VPNs out of the Chinese App
Store, to so that the Chinese state - which was in the midst of rounding
up *one million* Uyghurs and putting them in concentration camps - could
spy on its population more effectively


Now, Apple's purged its Chinese App Store of RSS readers, which allow
Apple customers in China to evade state censorship and surveillance,
which have been used in lethal ways, including targeting dissidents for


This is a really stark example of the failure of the "feudal security"
model we have evolved as states have both failed to create protections
for users (e.g. a US federal privacy law with a private right of action)
and to prevent monopolization of tech.

Deprived of the legal tools to defend ourselves with, we are forced to
seek protection from feudal seigneurs (e.g. tech companies) and hope
that their business interests align with our human rights interests.

So you can use Chrome, which is about to start blocking third-party
cookies, meaning that other people can't track you - but Google can.
Google doesn't want to protect your privacy - it wants to get a piece of
the action.

Google will use this power to incidentally protect your privacy by
blocking some of the worst online surveillance, but if you're worried
about Google itself (or one of its trusted parties) abusing your data,
Chrome won't help you.

Likewise, Apple makes a big (and deserved) deal out of its privacy
orientation, but that privacy is in service to a marketing message:
"Apple is the pro-privacy alternative." Apple cares about selling
devices, and privacy is a means to that end.

Apple's decision to both manufacture and sell devices in China, combined
with its power to choose which apps you can use, all but guaranteed that
it would be deputized to aid in mass roundups for concentration camps
and organ harvesting.

Meanwhile, the policies that Apple relies on to prevent companies
creating third-party app stores - policies like DMCA 1201, the copyright
law that bans breaking Apple DRM - are defended by an infinite warchest
funded by all the tech giants, who all rely on it.

The feudal lords of the internet secure us against the lawless bandits
that roam outside of their castle walls. But they don't love us. They
don't want us to be safe. They want to make money. If they can get
richer by sacrificing our safety, they'll do it in a heartbeat.


🎃 This day in history

#5yrsago Why an obscure left-wing MP won the UK Labour leadership by the
biggest margin in history https://mondediplo.com/2015/10/04corbyn

#5yrsago Voter suppression act two: closing driver’s license offices in
Alabama’s Black Belt

#5yrsago Arbitration: how America’s corporations got their own private
legal system

#5yrsago Dieselgate for TVs: Samsung accused of programming TVs to cheat
energy efficiency ratings

#5yrsago Internet of Things That Lie: the future of regulation is
demonology https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET2/more/rinesi20150925

#5yrsago Landmark patent case will determine whether you can ever truly
own a device again

#1yrago IRS admits it audits poor people because auditing rich people is
too expensive #1yrago Apple bans an app because Hong Kong protesters
might use it to avoid the murderous, out of control police

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: JWZ (https://www.jwz.org/blog/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 511 words (68077

Currently reading: Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 16)

Upcoming appearances:

* Library Leaders Forum, Oct 6

* 3 Big Ideas To Fix the Internet, Oct 7,

* Wired Nextfest Italia, Oct 10,

* The Attack Surface Lectures: 8 nights of bookstore-hosted events in
which I and a massive group of entertaining and knowledgeable experts
discourse on my latest novel's themes, Oct 13-22

Upcoming appearances:

* Library Leaders Forum, Oct 6

* 3 Big Ideas To Fix the Internet, Oct 7,

* Wired Nextfest Italia, Oct 10,

* The Attack Surface Lectures: 8 nights of bookstore-hosted events in
which I and a massive group of entertaining and knowledgeable experts
discourse on my latest novel's themes, Oct 13-22

Recent appearances:

* If Big Tech Is Toxic, How Do We Build Something Better? (panel)

* On ‘Attack Surface’ and WiFi Fridges (What a Hell of a Way to Die

* Little Brother vs. Big Audiobook (Techdirt podcast):

Latest book:

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
to pluralistic.net.


Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are
included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the
basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.

How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and


Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):


When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy"

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 195 bytes
Desc: OpenPGP digital signature
URL: <http://mail.flarn.com/pipermail/plura-list/attachments/20201002/4bc6edeb/attachment.sig>

More information about the Plura-list mailing list