The New Surveillance State Private companies are using your data to control how you think.

AuthorKupfer, David

Imagine a world where artificial intelligence has for years been aggregating every input you've tapped into your computer, tablet, and phone via Google searches and Amazon purchases, the contents of your text messages, the many apps on your phone, and your Instagrand and Face-book likes, posts, and messaging. Imagine that, with this data set, you are being nudged and herded to commercial action based on your own behavior and perceived needs.

It turns out that's exactly the world we're living in today.

According to Shoshana Zuboff, a professor emeritus of business administration at Harvard Business School, we are living in an era of "surveillance capitalism," in which our online behavior is constantly being monitored, recorded, and analyzed. The big pioneers of this approach, including Google and Facebook, have become quite wealthy by selling predictions of our individual behavior to targeted online advertisers. Now the customers for this data range across the entire economy.

"The result is that both the world and our lives are pervasively rendered as information," Zuboff writes in her recently published 700-page book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. "Whether you are complaining about your acne or engaging in political debate on Facebook, searching for a recipe or sensitive health information on Google, ordering laundry soap or taking photos of your nine-year-old, smiling or thinking angry thoughts, watching TV or doing wheelies in the parking lot, all of it is raw material for this burgeoning text."

Surveillance capitalism, a term coined by Zuboff, is a digital-born market form governed by novel and even startling economic imperatives that are producing unprecedented asymmetries of knowledge and power. The stark social inequalities that characterize this market project enable new forms of economic and social domination, while challenging human autonomy, elemental and established human rights, including the right to privacy, and the most basic precepts of a democratic society.

"We think we're searching Google," Zuboff said in a recent speech at the University of California, Berkeley. "Google is actually searching us. We think that these companies have privacy policies; those policies are actually surveillance policies."

One troubling example that Zuboff cites in her book was recently in the news. Cambridge Analytica was a private company owned by the billionaire Robert Mercer...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT