You know the meaning of the words ‘surveillance’ and ‘capitalism’ individually, but what does the term ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ mean? Who uses it, and why is it so important? This book by William Poole enables us to find the answers.
Surveillance Capitalism (SC) is a term coined by Harvard Business School Emerita Professor Soshana Zuboff in 2014. It's the name of her pioneering work on this new concept. Unlike traditional surveillance, within SC, it functions as the sneaky, slimy, data-gathering arm of high-tech Capitalists! Under the guise of legitimate surveillance, SC is the secret activity of gathering (electronic) data about our private, personal online experiences. The collected data is used by businesses and by political parties—for increasing profits by the former and to favorably influence voters in the case of the latter. Behind the scenes, it has been at work for over 20 years now, across the globe, and, shockingly, we were ignorant about it till now! The message of the book is: “Wake up, become aware, RESIST SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM ACTIVELY, before it takes irrevocable control of our freedom.”
Businesses want to know more about us, all the time. Why? Because they can vastly increase their selling opportunities when they know more about us. Although we part with only a little personal data when we sign up for a PC program or Android/iOS app, by: (i) incrementally adding gathered data to your basic 'profile' over time, and (ii) by running unimaginably complex prediction algorithms on that (growing) profile, they can predict when you are most likely to buy such-and-such a product, and the specific add-ons you’ll prefer, and send you accurately timed offers of the best combo. They may also offer you a discount coupon or an irresistible exchange offer to influence you to buy from a specific retailer and so on. The same applies to political parties. Instead of selling you more products/services, they want to know how best to influence you to vote for them, so they can continue in power forever.
Viewed in the context of the noted ‘digital divide' (*), SC is an ongoing activity that’s transferring digital data, money, and control to the biggies on the ‘digitally enabled side’ while taking them away from the hands of consumers like you and me. If we allow SC to grow unchecked, there may come a time when it will enable those in government, assisted by the ‘data robbers’ to use our data against us and, possibly, end democracy itself!
According to the author, however, all hope isn’t lost yet. EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has been effective in curbing SC, there are methods to avoid being tracked using VPN (Virtual Private Network) protection, by following a prescribed list of do’s and don’ts while online, reverting to cash purchases rather than using credit/debit cards online, etc.
While I’m sure those that are ‘digitally enabled’ will deeply appreciate this book, I also recommend it to educated citizens worldwide for the sake of spreading awareness on this grim issue ASAP. Additionally, if you found this review interesting, I urge you to view the YouTube video titled ‘Soshana Zuboff on Surveillance Capitalism | VPRO Documentary’ (duration: about 50 minutes), which is an excellent video from which you can learn lots more on this subject.
(*) NOTE: ‘Digital divide’ means the gap between those who are knowledgable about/have access to/regularly use the Internet and digital technology, etc. and those who don’t. If, in your family, you are tech-savvy, have an Internet connection and use it regularly from a PC/phone, etc., while your siblings don't, you are digitally enabled while they aren't.
An engineer and part-time IT Consultant based in Bangalore, India. Part-time copy editor/reviewer. An IEEE Senior Member. Deep thinker and innovator. Highly analytical, clear, accurate, and thorough. Nearly 40 book reviews published to date-20 on Reedsy and 20 on Online BookClub.