Read: June 2022

Inspiration: Heard of the book through a podcast; what is surveillance capitalism?


Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.

“The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”, published in 2018 by author and professor Shoshana Zuboff, examines the rise of a new form of capitalism in which companies profit by collecting and analyzing personal data on a massive scale. Zuboff argues that this new form of capitalism, which she calls “surveillance capitalism,” has fundamentally transformed the way that businesses operate and has led to a range of negative consequences for society. These include the erosion of privacy, the manipulation of individuals through targeted advertising, and the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few large technology companies. The book also discusses the ways in which surveillance capitalism has shaped the development of the internet and the implications of these developments for the future of democracy and capitalism.

Unedited Notes

Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.

Surveillance capitalism represents usage of raw info into behavioral data by others but not for our benefit, SC is not technology it is the logic of tech and how it commands its action, tech cannot be isolated from economics and society—there is no technological inevitability, SC differs from capitalism via the purpose of data collection (no longer simply for product improvement), apple launch iTunes Oct 2003 and became largest online music company by downloads in less than 1 week, Piketty describes inequality in 21C as derived from r>g where return on capital greater than econ growth which elites leverage, study showed if person read average privacy policies—take 76 workdays at nat’l opp cost 781bn, behavioral surplus=more behavorial data rendered than required for service improvements so used for machine intel which predicts behavior and this is sold to customer (behavioral futures market—advertisers just one customer), section 230 written ’95 to distinguish distributors vs publishers (use metaphor of public library hosting a controversial book—but not same as big tech given they monetize and extract data), Section 230 used by tech firms to act as though no involvement with content, in 2000 FTC wrote report about regulating online privacy but then 9/11 lead to uptick in surveillance/security over privacy and plans gone, Google Street View initiative in 2009 spark Spy-Fi scandal where Google proved to be extracting household wifi data and more as went through streets for images—Schmidt blame rogue engineer on team (not the case), Google then acquire startups such as Waze and begin to influence/control routes with co-pilot type features (give you the route which you do not question), maps created empire (John Harley famous cartographer), surveillance/sensors enable behavior once unobservable to be translated to contracts and compel us to act (e.g. insurance), big tech like to say IoT or other tech is inevitable but most scientific experts acknowledge inevitability is simply economic incentive/power (not true), inevitability rhetoric creates passiveness and puts down human agency, illinois only state with laws against biometric data collection—FB lobby hard against any consent laws for facial recognition, FB and others act as one way mirrors which run experiments on users, distort/disguise economic orientstion, basic rights are historically contigent (not named until under attack, no right to breathe), tech companies strive for a world of certainty and ability to not just predict but influence/guide action on a broad scale (for profit), to reverse surveillance cap—businesspeople need to be creative with better value prop than steal all your data, surveillance capital encourages hive mind—third modernity destroys human nature whereas second modernity of industrial capitalism destroyed nature, big tech will invade privacy and if resistance then back up and habituate (try agin from new angle until people complacent), instrumentarianism is name for new surveill capitalism which turns all behavior into data to be extracted/shared for profit of Big Other, capitalism and invisible hand built in time when believe markets unknowable so need freedom—not at a time of tech/communication, life was local, surveillance capitalists know too much to qualify for freedom of old capitalists, SC also no longer organically reciprocate to workers/consumers as FB/Google employ fewer than GM at peak of Great Depression, “radical indifference” to positives and negatives shown by FB 2016 leaked memo in 2018 by buzzfeed (sole aim is add users), SC threatens democracy and human nature and SC outside normal bounds—strip privacy, numb people, laws not quick enough, capitalism/ownership can reorganize however around new goals, tech/SC still unprecedented so should not accept as inevitable, Orwell wrote about predicting a continuation of the thing that is happening—this is a disease, can change approach (creativity trumps inevitability)

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Welcome to JeffReads, where I share summaries of the best books I’ve read on business, politics, science, technology and more.




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