Sociologist Sami Coll argues that the concept of privacy has now become more like an “ally of surveillance,” rather than its antidote. Privacy has come to be defined by individualistic ideas and solutions centered on being responsible digital consumers who practice good cyberhygiene. But in a battle between plucky individuals who must protect themselves, and powerful institutions who want to poke, probe, and profile people, it is no mystery who wins. When we accept a framing that is friendly to — or has even been absorbed and appropriated by — the surveillance-industrial complex, then we end up fighting on their turf, by their rules. We might win some skirmishes, but we will lose the war.
Ultimately, this issue is about power: who has it, how do they wield it, what do they gain? And vice versa: who is excluded, targeted, squeezed?
In other words, we get distracted by the privilege of cool gadgets and regular upgrades while a supercharged system of surveillance capitalism is integrated into society. None of us explicitly agreed to this deal, but just like with a software license or terms of service, we have been given no choice but to “accept.”