Surveillance Capitalism

Surveillance Capitalism (SC). What is and can we do anything about it?

SC is the concept made to explain the behavior of companies, most publicly being Facebook and Google, to gather information with or without the consent of users who may be paying money or not for the purposes of using the information to predict further behavior and selling the insight to others without the explicit permission of the user involved after the data is collected.

Simple examples include: * When you search and others see recommendations based on what you searched and clicked * Emails you’ve received which might be unwanted by many people

It gets more complicated when it starts involving “small” bits of information which together, and combined with the surveillance of other users to determine trends, groups, and etc., reveal information with the user is unaware of and which the company surveilling them is allowed to sell this insight to companies or other individuals without even notifying the user. The selling can happen without sending the other side the data by simply allowing the other company/individual to target people who would meet some certain criteria and the surveillance company would simply use this insight to perform an action on behalf of that company. In Google’s case it’s showing relevant ads for that person on websites entirely unrelated to the ad. In Facebook’s its the ability to target people who like certain pages, have some kinds of devices, or exhibit certain behavior in their posts, online activity, location activity, or private unencrypted messages.

What can be done

Two things: 1. Encryption and keeping data from being misused at all by simply not sharing it with those who do surveillance capitalism. 2. Making it against the law to do this. At least without permission.

Apple seems to be not doing this and also committed to using Encryption, sandboxing, and their ability to control what goes in the store to enforce this in their ecosystem which makes it pretty attractive no matter what you may think about Apple’s products by themselves.

If you can not manage your own servers and infrastructure (most people, including technical people with other priorities) then I’d recommend what I’m attempting to do which is use Apple for most things.

The primary things I care about are Health data, messaging data, what I search for, where I’ve been, and my photos.

The reason to mention Apple and using their services is that apps installed on a phone often have access to information you’re not aware of and also not aware of it’s value. Installing apps from places like Google and Facebook will inevitably lead to data leaking to them which gives them some picture in to your life. For those able to afford it I recommend keeping things like social media on another older phone using different emails, accounts, and etc.

You’ll notice that a lot of how you avoid surveillance capitalism will end up rhyming with what productivity gurus recommend about social media and posting online. Often looking to them for recommendations is a good start, but their end goal is productivity not avoiding surveillance so be aware of that.