December 3, 2021

Surveillance Capitalism

Surveillance Capitalism

The digital revolution's ongoing advancements can be spectacular. Experts caution, however, that the lights, bells, and spectacles could be so distracting that consumers fall prey to the ways high-tech companies use consumer data for their gain.

As more and more people know the importance of the data they provide, businesses must create a safer space for consumers to thrive in today's well-informed market.

Read on to learn more about Surveillance Capitalism and what you can do.

What is Surveillance Capitalism?

Shoshana Zuboff, an academic, coined the term surveillance capitalism in 2014.

Surveillance capitalism is a market-driven process in which an individual's data is the commodity for sale. The acquisition and production of this data is based on mass internet surveillance. Companies that give individuals free internet services, such as search engines and social media platforms, are frequently involved in this practice.

These companies collect and analyze people's internet activities to generate data that you may utilize for commercial purposes. Unfortunately, this happens frequently without the public being aware of the entire scope of the surveillance.

How was Surveillance Capitalism Defined?

"The Age of Surveillance Capitalism," by Zuboff, paints a troubling picture of how Silicon Valley and other corporations mine user data to predict and influence their behavior.

Surveillance capitalism, according to Zuboff, is the unilateral claim of private human experience as free raw material for behavioral data translation. These data are then processed and packaged as prediction products, subsequently sold to behavioral futures markets, which are businesses interested in understanding what people will do now, soon, and in the future.

Google was the first to figure out how to collect more behavioral data than they needed for services. They turned this data into prediction products that they could sell to their commercial customers to help optimize ads. However, according to Zuboff, surveillance capitalism is no longer limited to that initial premise.

This economic rationale has now gone beyond tech businesses to new surveillance-based ecosystems in practically every financial sector. These sectors range from insurance to vehicles to health, education, and banking, as well as every "smart" product and "personalized" service.

Surveillance capitalism is based on a digital business model and relies on "big data" to create money. The information employed in this procedure gets gathered frequently from the same persons who would be the organization's eventual targets.

Google, for example, collects personal internet data to target people with advertisements. Going beyond advertisements, Facebook sells people's data to organizations that want to promote specific causes regardless of whether these causes are good or bad.

Google has a history of giving away free services for a variety of reasons:

  • With a market valuation of over $650 billion and numerous billion-dollar budgets to play with, they can afford it.

  • They are willing to forsake short-term profits in exchange for long-term rewards.

  • It is the quickest technique to get users' attention.

  • They want to be able to upsell people afterward.

Furthermore, rather than firms that own the data, such as Google or Facebook, third-party data brokers are also selling people's information. These businesses acquire information about individuals or groups from several sources, compile it, and then sell it.

Why is Surveillance Capitalism Dangerous?

Without a doubt, using people's data and information for purposes other than what is needed by a company poses a lot of danger.

For one thing, the Cambridge Analytica revelations from the previous year brought to light the extent to which internet companies monitor online activities. By gathering and selling data under the guise of academic study, Cambridge Analytica breached Facebook's regulations. Their actions could have violated US election law.

Despite Cambridge Analytics' dubious behavior, the major firms and key actors in surveillance capitalism, Facebook and Google, legally collect as much data as possible. This information includes details about their users, online friends, and even offline friends (known as shadow profiling).

Cambridge Analytica was a minor player in the big data industry in this regard.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulatory framework that establishes standards for acquiring and processing personal data from European Union (EU) citizens. Because the Regulation applies to all websites that attract European visitors it impacts nearly every website. Even if they do not specifically promote products or services to EU residents, all sites that attract European visitors must follow GDPR requirements.

According to the GDPR, You must provide EU visitors with several data disclosures. In addition, the site must make efforts to assist EU consumer rights such as timely notification in the event of a data breach. The Regulation, adopted in April 2016, went into full effect in May 2018 after a two-year transition period.

Why Should People Pay for Services Online?

Companies that provide users with free online services, such as search engines and social media platforms, are usually involved in surveillance capitalism, as previously indicated.

Surveillance capitalism is more concerned with keeping people "content" and connected to harvest data. They observe and record millions of people's actions and responses to strategically diversified stimuli to develop something like an avatar --- a virtual representation of each person --- that duplicates their responses to certain inputs.

They may test and pick inputs to manage people's responses more accurately the more data they collect. As a result, paying for online services may be a more practical choice for maintaining anonymity. Quality services will also not advertise or track paid subscribers.


In the race to sell certainty, surveillance capitalism's economic imperatives honed.

Early on, it was obvious that machine intelligence relied on large amounts of data, necessitating data extraction economies of scale. It was eventually realized that volume is required but not sufficient. This realization fueled the "mobile revolution," which saw users go into the real world with cameras, computers, and microphones built into their fancy new phones.

You can, however, begin to take a stand against surveillance capitalism by saying no. In this regard, PoeticMetric can help. PoeticMetric is a blazingly fast analytics tool that prioritizes privacy and complies with regulations.

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