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LostInParadise's avatar

How does surveillance capitalism work?

Asked by LostInParadise (29137points) December 20th, 2020
11 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

I first heard the term on the radio today. It was an interview with Shoshana Zuboff, who coined the term and recently wrote a book on the subject. Here is an article describing surveillance capitalism. It very well may be that surveillance capitalism is a major problem, but I am not able to find any discussion of the specifics. The radio interview said that companies can build a profile of our needs and even determine our current emotional state. What kind of information are high tech companies collecting that would allow them to do this?

After buying something online, I often get advertisements for related products. That is mildly annoying, but hardly a massive invasion of my privacy. Do you have any further information on surveillance capitalism?

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Demosthenes's avatar

That is part of it, yes. Data gathered from social media sites and online habits that allows for targeted advertising.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Advertising is sinister enough, but consider the political possibilities.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Like most things, this is spun one way.

One person’s ‘surveillance capitalism’ is another person’s focused or targeted advertising, as @Demosthenes wrote. Surveillance capitalism (her spin) is not inherently bad when it is put to benign purposes, but it is bad if it is done by governments and others who are malevolent.

Take what she wrote with a big grain of salt. She has an agenda.

stanleybmanly's avatar

What do you believe is her agenda?

Zaku's avatar

How long ago was it that Safeway used its loyalty program data to defend itself from someone who sued them for being injured in one of their stores by their slippery wet floors? Basically it was able to pull up the plaintiff’s detailed shopping history and painted a picture of them as a drunk because of all the alcohol they’d bought at Safeway. Just a tip of the iceberg example from over a decade ago which shows corporations have long been willing and aware of the potential to abuse customer data to gain advantages over people.

Nowadays, most people are giving out their location, communication and viewing histories.

And what corporations know and can abuse for their own purposes, so can “law enforcement”, and “intelligence services”, and “customs and immigration”, etc, as well as any individuals who end up with access to the data by being employees or friends of employees. Or, hackers who also gain access to that information. Ever had a crazy stalker?

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’m not her, so I can’t say for sure what her agenda is. My guess is that she is anti-technology, or at a minimum anti-internet as it has evolved.

_____'s avatar

@elbanditoroso: “My guess is that she is anti-technology, or at a minimum anti-internet as it has evolved.”

You say this as though “anti-internet as it has evolved” is on the “anti-technology” spectrum, when it’s quite the opposite.

LostInParadise's avatar

Do you think that Facebook and Twitter create profiles of their users based on what they write?

Zaku's avatar

@LostInParadise They do. Even what they write but don’t send. And what people write to them. And all the other info they have.

LostInParadise's avatar

It would be interesting, even if a little creepy, to know what kind of information they can retrieve.

Zaku's avatar

@LostInParadise They can retrieve almost anything. And their programs automatically scan all your email and messages on gmail and Facebook and other such sites and apps.

You can see what they show you about what they store on you at Facebook on their web site. Click the upside-down-triangle-in-a-circle in the upper-right-hand corner. Then click “Settings & Privacy”, then “Privacy Shortcuts”, then “Your Facebook Information”, then “Access Your Information” to see 27 colorful categories of information on you. And/or click on “download your information” to get a copy of it as a file.

Of course, that’s not all, as Facebook owns and trades with several other companies that also collect info on you.

Meanwhile Google tracks and analyzes all your ingoing, outgoing, and draft mail in gmail, your web and app use, your location, and data from it’s companies (e.g. YouTube). Google has also admitted that they have done experiments to see how they can influence voters via very subtle changes to what search results come up for them, and in what order, which could be automatically done for entire populations based on analysis of all the data they have on everyone. They calculate that the amounts they can shift votes tends to vary more than votes themselves tend to vary, so if they chose to, they could probably determine the outcome of just about any vote. Also, people who have spoken out about Google have sometimes found that they can no longer access their gmail, or google, or the Internet itself.

If you carry a cell phone in your name, your cell phone company, smart phone manufacturer, and government security agencies, can access where your phone was and is, for years of history.

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