April 6, 2020

Surveillance Capitalism

There’s an old poker adage - if you can’t work out who the sucker is at the table - you are the sucker.

A more recent twist - ’if you aren’t paying for the product - you are the product.

And now we have … “If you aren’t tracking people you are being tracked. And, if you are being tracked you are essentially a modern day serf.

How Capitalism Betrayed Privacy

A truly excellent article from Tim Wu in The New York Times

Some Highlights

”For much of human history, what we now call “privacy” was better known as being rich. Privacy, like wealth, was something that most people had little or none of. Farmers, slaves and serfs resided in simple dwellings, usually with other people, sometimes even sharing space with animals. They had no expectation that a meaningful part of their lives would be unwatchable or otherwise off limits to others. That would have required homes with private rooms. And only rich people had those.”


”The forces of wealth creation no longer favor the expansion of privacy but work to undermine it. We have witnessed the rise of what I call “attention merchants” and what the sociologist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — the commodification of our personal data by tech giants like Facebook and Google and their imitators in telecommunications, electronics and other industries. We face a future in which active surveillance is such a routine part of business that for most people it is nearly inescapable. In this respect, we are on the road back to serfdom.


”The richest companies in the world now generate wealth by putting as many trackers, devices and screens inside our homes and as close to our bodies as possible. Accumulated data creates competitive advantage, and money can be made by consolidating everything that is known about an individual.”


”To be truly effective, privacy laws must seek to change the incentives that foster gratuitous surveillance and the reckless accumulation of personalized data. We need strong bans, including those that prohibit companies from sharing their customers’ personal information. New rights for consumers have to be easy to understand (like the European Union’s “right to be forgotten”) and easy to use (like a national “do not track” list). And companies that repeatedly fail to protect sensitive data need to face dire consequences.”

💬 📚 people.first

Previous post
Surveillance Capitalism “Each thermostat comes with a “privacy policy,” a “terms-of-service agreement,” and an “end-user licensing agreement.” And that’s just the start …
Next post
Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n. “A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales.”