Here is Zuboff’s definition of surveillance capitalism:
Surveillance capitalism… is the foundational framework for a surveillance-based economic order: a surveillance economy.
What does this mean?
We are no longer the subjects of value realization. Nor are we, as some have insisted, the “product” of Google’s sales. Instead, we are the objects from which raw materials are extracted and expropriated.
In short, what industrial capitalism did with physical nature, surveillance capitalism did with human nature.
What’s the problem with that, you might ask? Well, think about the impact of the industrial revolution on physical nature.
As Zuboff says,
The essence of the exploitation here is the rendering of our lives as behavioral data for the sake of others’ improved control of us.
Control and, obviously, modification.
I have to run to class now but tell me, does anybody need page numbers for the quotes? I can provide them if necessary.
We keep hearing that privacy is eroded as a result of the digital revolution. Zuboff ayas, however, that “privacy is not eroded but redistributed.” We don’t know how Google and Facebook operate. They have privacy because they have the means to keep their operations private. Moreover, they have an opportunity to take over our privacy and make it theirs. Privacy still exists and it’s bigger than ever. It just doesn’t exist for us because it’s something that can be mined for profit by others.
Zuboff offers a great analysis of the language games played to conceal the redistribution of privacy. To give a single example,
The word “targeted” is another euphemism. It evokes notions of precision, efficiency, and competence. Who would guess that targeting conceals a new political equation in which Google’s concentrations of computational power brush aside users’ decision rights as easily as King Kong might shoo away an ant, all accomplished offstage where no one can see?
Of course, “targeted” also evokes military operations, which is closer in meaning to what the tech giants do.
In the ten days that Ukrainian relatives have been staying with us and cooking up a storm, N gained 9 lbs. I’m more used to the Ukrainian diet, so I only gained two. They’ll be here for another week, so we’ll see what the final result is. I promised N I’ll starve him after they leave.
We’ll be visiting them next month, though, so I’ll have to starve him pretty badly.