All of us use cellphones. What if I told you that it is, in actuality, our cellphones that use us? Truth be told - my first reaction when I got to know this was, “How could that be?”. I didn’t precisely comprehend what it meant until I did a little analysis myself along these lines. So, here’s what I did - I opened a celebrated online shopping app on my mobile and tried searching for a good pair of sneakers for myself. After a couple of hours, I opened Facebook, and guess what sprung up?
1. An article associated with the sneakers that I searched -- the same brand.
2. The official Facebook page of the brand in the “Suggested pages”.
3. A couple of targeted advertisements by the same online shopping app, recommending similar pairs of sneakers.
For starters, I freaked out - in the light of the fact that I was unable to accept what I just saw. What was additionally shocking was a revelation by a friend after I described to him what I had just encountered. He told me that even if I had just typed the name of that particular pair of sneakers in any of my text conversations, or otherwise on my phone, I would have gotten a similar outcome; and that, it happens with every other person in the world who uses the internet. I went all ballistic hearing this. Out of curiosity, I started unearthing the reasons why the so-called ‘New-age’ technology was behaving like a psycho old lover who stalks you everywhere in creepy styles!
Ironically enough, I could only take assistance from the ‘web’ - the very thing which I was beginning to loathe gradually.
So, I came across the term - “Surveillance Capitalism” which, apparently, was the reason behind this behaviour.
What is Surveillance Capitalism?
Surveillance capitalism describes a market-driven cycle where the commodity for sale is your personal information, and the capture and production of this data rely on mass surveillance of the internet. Consequently, we become a free commodity to the surveillance capitalists.
We, as individuals, unknowingly participate in this model just by using free online search engines (e.g., Google) and social media platforms (e.g., Facebook). Isn’t it an unprecedented threat to individual freedom and an invasion of privacy?
Could you, in your wildest dreams, even envision that these platforms are the first one to know when you have a headache, or when you’re going on a holiday, or even when you’re expecting!?
Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff, who is also known as Karl Marx of the New Age, in her book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”, clarifies how the profit motives of businesses have impacted the world. It describes the gothic algorithmic daemons that track us at every second of the day to rip us off our mental peace.
I have come to a firm realisation that privacy is not private anymore...we’ve entered the age of surveillance capitalism and how!
Guilelessly, we think that the only information they have about us is what we've given them. Sadly, the information that we provide doesn't even constitute 2 per cent of the total data they have about us. You know, the businesses may guarantee that they take information from us to improve the services they provide; notwithstanding, a greater part of it is being used to train their business models so that it has, over time, collected enough information to know how individuals with these traits typically behave. This allows businesses to foresee what you're going to do next! Alarming, right? It's practically us being remotely controlled by the Silicon Valley!
Surveillance capitalists are influential, and we are their puppets. It's a dismal, "nanny state" that we dwell in, yet, we are helpless.