Bookmarked Opinion | You Are Now Remotely Controlled (

Surveillance capitalists are rich and powerful, but they are not invulnerable. They have an Achilles heel: fear. They fear lawmakers who do not fear them. They fear citizens who demand a new road forward as they insist on new answers to old questions: Who will know? Who will decide who knows? Who will decide who decides? Who will write the music, and who will dance?

Zuboff suggests that surveillance capitalism is a ‘virus without a vaccine’ built around the notion that privacy is private.

The belief that privacy is private has left us careening toward a future that we did not choose, because it failed to reckon with the profound distinction between a society that insists upon sovereign individual rights and one that lives by the social relations of the one-way mirror. The lesson is that privacy is public — it is a collective good that is logically and morally inseparable from the values of human autonomy and self-determination upon which privacy depends and without which a democratic society is unimaginable.

These platforms have hijacked the digital medium to sell certainties about users.

Surveillance capitalism’s economic imperatives were refined in the competition to sell certainty. Early on it was clear that machine intelligence must feed on volumes of data, compelling economies of scale in data extraction. Eventually it was understood that volume is necessary but not sufficient. The best algorithms also require varieties of data — economies of scope. This realization helped drive the “mobile revolution” sending users into the real world armed with cameras, computers, gyroscopes and microphones packed inside their smart new phones. In the competition for scope, surveillance capitalists want your home and what you say and do within its walls. They want your car, your medical conditions, and the shows you stream; your location as well as all the streets and buildings in your path and all the behavior of all the people in your city. They want your voice and what you eat and what you buy; your children’s play time and their schooling; your brain waves and your bloodstream. Nothing is exempt.

Justice is therefore decided by three key questions: Who knows? Who decides who knows? Who decides who decides who knows? According to Zuboff, the only way of fixing this is through the introduction of new laws.

Without law, we scramble to hide in our own lives, while our children debate encryption strategies around the dinner table and students wear masks to public protests as protection from facial recognition systems built with our family photos.

This all continues Zuboff’s discussion associated with her book.

Bookmarked Facebook may be ‘pivoting’ to something worse (BBC News)

Make no mistake: few, if any, of the problems Facebook is “working hard” on at the moment would have come to light were it not for external pressure from journalists, lawmakers, academics and civil rights groups.

The examples I’ve raised here pose a question: is Facebook fixing itself, or merely making it harder for us to see it’s broken?

Dave Lee discusses Facebook’s supposed pivot to private and wonders if this is about making it harder for people to see how it is broken. Shoshana Zuboff argues that we have not even started reining in surveillance capitalism. In response, she suggests we need to interrupt data supplies, be better informed and engage in collective action.
Bookmarked Learning from surveillance capitalism (code acts in education)

Ben Williamson Surveillance capitalism combines data analytics, business strategy, and human behavioural experimentation. Image: “Fraction collector” by proteinbiochemist ‘Surveil…

Ben Williamson discusses the implication of Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism on education. He suggests three possible inquires stemming from the book:

1) Cultures of computational learning
2) Human-machine learning confluences
3) Programmable policies

RSVPed Interested in Attending Our next reading is Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Our online book club has chosen its next nonfiction reading.  After an energetic round of voting, the winner is… Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Fut…

I feel like I am interested in everyone of Bryan Alexander’s reading bookclubs, I just never manage to find the time required. I really want to read Zuboff’s book, but am wary of the length and rigour. Guess I will see …
Bookmarked ‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism (the Guardian)

Shoshana Zuboff’s new book is a chilling exposé of the business model that underpins the digital world. Observer tech columnist John Naughton explains the importance of Zuboff’s work and asks the author 10 key questions

In an interview with John Naughton, Shoshana Zuboff touches on the feeling of ‘informed bewilderment’ that marks that current transformation associated with platform capitalism. This includes the many aspects which feed into the surveillance economy, such as smartphones and digital assistants. Zuboff argues that the goal is to automate us. Rather than reviewing what should and should not be collected, the question that needs addressing is why is it collected at all.


We’re living through the most profound transformation in our information environment since Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of printing in circa 1439. And the problem with living through a revolution is that it’s impossible to take the long view of what’s happening. Hindsight is the only exact science in this business, and in that long run we’re all dead.

So our contemporary state of awareness is – as Manuel Castells, the great scholar of cyberspace once put it – one of “informed bewilderment”.

“Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”

Surveillance capitalism was invented around 2001 as the solution to financial emergency in the teeth of the dotcom bust when the fledgling company faced the loss of investor confidence.

Nearly every product or service that begins with the word “smart” or “personalised”, every internet-enabled device, every “digital assistant”, is simply a supply-chain interface for the unobstructed flow of behavioural data on its way to predicting our futures in a surveillance economy.

Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us. Once we thought of digital services as free, but now surveillance capitalists think of us as free.

It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us; the goal now is to automate us. These processes are meticulously designed to produce ignorance by circumventing individual awareness and thus eliminate any possibility of self-determination. As one data scientist explained to me, “We can engineer the context around a particular behaviour and force change that way… We are learning how to write the music, and then we let the music make them dance.”

Surveillance capitalism is a human-made phenomenon and it is in the realm of politics that it must be confronted. The resources of our democratic institutions must be mobilised, including our elected officials.

For example, the idea of “data ownership” is often championed as a solution. But what is the point of owning data that should not exist in the first place? All that does is further institutionalise and legitimate data capture.

Users might get “ownership” of the data that they give to surveillance capitalists in the first place, but they will not get ownership of the surplus or the predictions gleaned from it – not without new legal concepts built on an understanding of these operations … In any confrontation with the unprecedented, the first work begins with naming.