I’ve been researching on this topic for almost a year and a half. It’s a very deep and controversial topic and I’m not concluding whether it is right or wrong. I just want to make people aware about it.
I’m talking about Surveillance Capitalism. Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard professor wrote a book called “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” solely focused on this.
Surveillance Capitalism is something you already know. You are involved in it since years. Most of you probably know this very well but still I’m going to share some facts. This term was coined by Shoshana Zuboff in 2014 and she explains well why she calls it this. Basically, Surveillance Capitalism is the commodification of personal data with the core purpose of profit making. This is what you’ll find on Wikipedia. So to put it in Layman’s terms, it is the collection of personal data to give you more personalised ads. Now you’ll say what’s wrong in that, in fact you’ll see only the relevant ads and that’s better than seeing ads of something you’d never purchase. Well that’s right but the level of detail in data collection these companies go is pretty interesting. You must have noticed the ads becoming more and more relevant in a past few years. That’s because the collection of personal data is also increased. If you can recall, there was a time when you’d only see the ads while browsing the internet on your favourite browser after you had shopped/searched about a product on E-Commerce websites like Amazon or Flipkart. Now-a-days Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are extensively used for this sole purpose. Today while physically talking to someone, if you say the name of a product you’ll see the ad of that product while scrolling Instagram or Facebook the next minute! Isn’t that too much? Where is Privacy?
A YouTuber once posted a video of an experiment to check how much Google tracks you. He brought two identical Android devices, didn’t put any SIM card into it, didn’t connect to any Wi-Fi and put one of the phones in Airplane mode. Then he traveled throughout the city with both the phones in his pocket. After returning, before connecting to a Wi-Fi, he used a device which will save a copy of data which the device will send to Google. It was expected that no data will be transmitted because of obvious reasons. But that was not the case. The phone which wasn’t on airplane mode reported 121 locations, 130 activities and 152 Barometric Readings. Activities like walking, running, getting into a car, getting out of a car, getting into a building etc. I know! It’s that creepily detailed. On the other hand, the phone which was on airplane mode, ironically transmitted more data. This data included the movement tracking even in Private Schools, Government Buildings, Churches etc. This detailed data is collected of every single phone and then it is used to make a model of the person with the use of AI/ML and then to predict that person’s behaviour and future actions. ALL of this JUST to get more personalised ads?
Shoshana defines surveillance capitalism as the unilateral claiming of private human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. These data are then computed and packaged as prediction products and sold into behavioural futures markets — business customers with a commercial interest in knowing what we will do now, soon, and later. It was Google that first learned how to capture surplus behavioural data, more than what they needed for services, and used it to compute prediction products that they could sell to their business customers, in this case advertisers. Companies like Google and Facebook or as she likes to call them, “Digital Gangsters” spy on us, target us and use our private data for their revenue.
“Privacy is a fundamental human right and its non negotiable. Divorce Facebook, Unplug Alexa and Delete Google. This is our time. Let’s support companies that respect and support our privacy. Let’s start the Privacy Revolution and reclaim what belongs to us!” ~ Mark Weinstein (TEDxIVC)
Stay tuned for more Tech Related Blogs every week!