“Surveillance Capitalism” The Less You Know The Better

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Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.co

This article is going to analysis Surveillance capitalism and the things surrounding it by looking at the following.

  • The History Of Surveillance Capitalism
  • What Companies Get From It And Why They Do It
  • Negative Impacts On The Consumer
  • “Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism” And “The Great Hack”
  • Final Words

The History Of Surveillance Capitalism

The History of surveillance capitalism begins with Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google all collectively trying to figure out how to better solve its consumers wants and needs. The term surveillance capitalism came around in 2014 by Shoshana Zuboff but was invented by Google in 2001.What reason that brought about surveillance capitalism was the desire for companies to better sell to its consumer base. This all began because of the Dot.com boom in the 2000s and at that time the internet was the wild west with how unexplored and how easy it is to get lost in searches. This mostly went undetected until 2014 where Facebook was running this software that used automatic facial recognition. What that means is that once a Facebook user posted a photo the algorithm would look at the users follows and friends and face match them with the people in the photo. Which then lead to Facebook getting outed for influencing voters in the 2016 presidential election with the company Cambridge Analytica, a 3rd party at its side. These discoveries then lead to people finding microphones in Nest devices with other companies soon becoming exposed in similar situations. This is explained in an interview with the Harvard Gazette and Shoshana Zuboff.   

Here is a short video quickly explaining what surveillance capitalism is.

What Companies Get From It And Why They Do It

What do companies get from tracking searches, facial recognition, listening, and tracking your purchases is data? Data on consumer behavior is one if not the most asset that a company could possess. With the information a company can gather on a person they then have the ability to sell that information off to other companies and what they get in return is advertising revenue from all the targeted ads that they put on their sites to the sell the consumer on more products. This software created by Google, now owned by parent company called Alphabet, is now worth 822 Billion US dollars. A company that uses this technology is now able to attract more investors because the company does not have to pay a 3rd parts company to conduct research which is now instead given to them free of charge by their users.

Negative Impacts On the Consumer

Why it is bad for us, the consumer, is that companies intentionally keep the information they gather on us privately. The terms of use of this software is full of legal jargon that the average user of these sites and apps could not easily decipher. Once a user agrees to the terms of service for and app like Instagram, Instagram can immediately begin collecting data on what you look up, who you follow, who’s following you, your face id, where you are, where you have been and the list just keeps growing on the privacy rights that the user gives up. The unfortunate choice that us consumers have now is either use their service and give up our privacy or not use them at all and be in the dark about what is currently happening in the word and other services.

“Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism” And “The Great Hack”

In the VPRO Documentary “Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism” which is available on Youtube, Dr. Shoshana Zuboff discusses the the surveillance software and how it was created. As mentioned previously in the 2000s the was the DOT.com boom and companies were fighting to get consumer attention so they then created the software now used for surveillance capitalism. Little do consumers know that with this same technology and reasoning PokemonGO was later created in 2016 to better track where users went, and who was around them. Another example Shoshana Zuboff brings up is the security service Nest which had microphones in its products to listen in and observe the coming and goings of the household. The ending to this documentary leaves the audience with the feeling that they are being watch by Big Brother from the famous book 1984 written by George Orwell.

Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism | VPRO Documentary (above)

“The Great Hack” made in 2019 available on Netflix discusses how in 2016 Cambridge Analytica used surveillance on Facebook users to persuade unsure voters to vote for Cambridge Analytica’s client. This documentary goes into detail with interviews by whistleblowers who worked for Cambridge Analytica, giving the viewer an inside view on how Facebook data could be used to influence elections and how other companies were harvesting user data. It just goes to show what corporations will do to see a desirable outcome and generate profits for a company.

Final Words

My personal final word on this subject is that I wish that if my information is sold for a company’s gain, I should reap some of the benefits as well considering that this information is my personal property. Even better yet, just not allow them to collect data on me unless it is things searched up on their site. I do enjoy the occasional email where I find a product I have been wanting or something I did not know that I wanted, but in the end it all comes out the same where I am unhappy that I am being exploited by corporations all just for them to better sell to me. I wish there was an easy solution to this, but it seems that the consumers will have to look into the future and themselves to find an answer to this dilemma.

Article Links

‘Surveillance Capitalism’ Expert Takes on Tech Industry

Explainer: what is surveillance capitalism and how does it shape our economy?

High tech is watching you

First lawsuit against Facebook over Cambridge Analytica filed by Washington, D.C., attorney general

The Pros and Cons of Surveillance and Surveillance Capitalism

Published by jamarti8

Student and swimmer @ CCU

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