Viewpoint: ‘We’re living in an age of surveillance capitalism’ | BBC Ideas

Viewpoint: ‘We’re living in an age of surveillance capitalism’ | BBC Ideas


Companies like Google and Facebook
are factory farms for human beings. That’s how they make their money, they make their money by tracking
everything that you do, by profiling you, and then monetising that by manipulating your behaviour
with this intimate insight. We’re not sleepwalking
into some sort of dystopia. We’re there. My name’s Aral Balkan
and I’m a cyborg rights activist. When you go onto Facebook
Instant Messenger and you’re messaging your friend you might think that you’re
in a room together and only you two can hear each other. That’s not the case. Now for you, it might be you feel
that you have nothing to hide, you don’t care
if Google has your data. You might start to care the next time
you go to renew your insurance and your premium’s double. And then when you ask them,
“Why have my premiums doubled?” they say, “Well, your smart fridge
told us what you’re eating.” Now that might be when you start to
care, if you have a lot of privilege. For other people
it’s a life or death issue. People who do care might be,
for example, people who are gay but live in a country
in which it is illegal to be gay, and Facebook knows that they’re gay
based on their likes. Now this is a problem for them. Shoshana Zuboff from
Harvard business school calls the system that we live
under ‘surveillance capitalism’. Surveillance capitalism
is the feedback loop between surveillance and capitalism. Capitalism is about
the accumulation of wealth. Now, what happens when
that accumulated wealth and the people who
have that wealth and power then invest that wealth
in surveillance devices which allow them
to gather information about all of us which in turn allows them
to manipulate our behaviour which in turn makes them more money and reinforces this feedback loop. Well that’s Surveillance Capitalism. We have to regulate the abuses
of the surveillance capitalists, and we have to replace them
with ethical alternatives. Why don’t we start thinking about
funding those technologies from the commons for the common good? Unless we change how technology
is funded today, we can’t fix this problem, because this is not
a technology problem. If we want a different society, if we
want different ideologies amplified, then we need to
fund them differently, we need to build them differently and then, we have a chance
of a progressive future.

8 thoughts on “Viewpoint: ‘We’re living in an age of surveillance capitalism’ | BBC Ideas

  1. nah, not only search engines but also all networking applications/websites are doing this, tracking/profiling/farming in their own way.

  2. More worried about the BBC to be honest. As long as capitalism doesnt start to non person people, because of what institutions like BBC say is right or wrong, we dont have a problem.

  3. It's good to see a video like this. I've often thought that over the last 5 to 10 years things have dramatically changed. It's now known to other companies and governments where you are (through gps tracking and public transport electronic cards), what you like (through your online subscriptions, follows and likes), everything about your peronal information (dob, nationality, religion etc), your work (linkedIn), your finances (online banking) and god knows what else..

    It's no longer unreasonable to say 'let's not use the internet anymore'. Unfortunately it's essentially impossible in this day and age to do anything without the internet..

  4. "We need to fund them differently…" leaves out about 90+% of us. What's abundantly clearly missing from videos like this one is giving us instructions something like "Here's what you can do to help fund them differently"… (Thus, not just establishing a need but, rather, establishing steps which even the somewhat disenfranchised among us can take…)

  5. Can the BBC get Shoshana Zuboff on? All he's really doing is reiterating her ideas except without the deep understanding that she has.

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