The Internet's Workforce Is Faceless

We've forgotten that huge deals have a human toll: George Packer
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 25, 2014 1:57 PM CST
A United Parcel Service driver delivers packages from in Palo Alto, Calif., Thursday, June 30, 2011.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

(Newser) – Early 20th-century America had its factory workers; later decades had store employees. But today's Internet economy hides the faces of its workers, writes George Packer in the New Yorker. "Amazon’s workforce is made up mainly of computer engineers and warehouse workers, but when you think of Amazon you don’t picture either one," he writes. "What you see, instead, is a website with a button that says 'add to cart.'" As Internet behemoths increasingly dominate the US economy, our lack of awareness of their employees is a matter of concern.

The invisibility of such workers allows us to forget about the potential toll of the companies' expansion and power. Take Facebook's $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp: It "was reported as yet another tale of sudden, outlandish wealth creation, not as a dangerous consolidation of the messaging business in one company’s hands." We'd find such human consequences "easier to remember … if every time you clicked 'buy,' searched for an article, or texted a friend, your screen flashed the face of a worker who once held a job that made way for your seamless online experience." It's time for a conversation, Packer writes: "Where is the great debate over bigness in our time?" Click for his full piece. (Read more Internet stories.)

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