Since its invention in 2001 by Google in financial emergency, data capitalism emerged quickly to become the default business model for most Silicon Valley companies.
This particular type of capitalism takes advantage of the collective ignorance (both on the part of the citizens and the law-makers) surrounding the nature of its operations, hiding its highly intrusive activities under the cloak of “personalization.”
Architectures that allow automating the capture, storage, analysis, prediction, and finally redirection of our behaviour at a massive scale are the means by which companies like Facebook are able to sell highly performant advertisement products.
Surveillance capitalism rose from invention to domination in record time. … Surveillance capitalism’s velocities outrun democracy even as they outrun our ability to understand what is happening and consider the consequences.
Our institutions have worked for decades to put in place laws to protect privacy and antitrust mechanisms, but they have not sufficed to contain this new economic regime whose profits rely on the rendition of human personalities.
Operations of surveillance capitalism
- Our human experience is the raw material that the information giants claim freely, shamelessly and without our explicit consent in order to transform them into computable data.
- Giants such as Facebook concentrate an exclusive, abyssal knowledge about us, without our knowing.
- The modelling of our very own human experience is kept secret from us, without even the possibility to access what Facebook knows about us in an extreme asymmetry of knowledge.
- Our free will is now confronted to an industry whose success depends precisely on the modification of our behaviour (in part because of the mountains of personal information which prediction systems own about us).
Companies from this sector are growing at a dazzling pace, bypassing existing laws and policies. Since they concentrate their operations behind closed doors, it is often difficult, even impossible to oversight them, and the actual policies do not allow to regulate them. Finally, these companies constitute a threat to the sovereignty of the individuals over themselves, making influence peddling the foundation of its business model.