Everything You Need to Know about Surveillance Capitalism
Have you ever wondered why you are bombarded with ads as soon as you talk about a particular product or service? These ads are highly targeted, offering similar products or services that you might be interested in. But that is not the end of it; these ads will follow you around as you browse the internet.
There was a time when this was considered objectionable, but internet users have now accepted it since it happens regularly now. No matter how you may react to this kind of advertising, it is here to stay. Tech companies will monitor, record, and profit from your every move online. This kind of invasive data-tracking is referred to as surveillance capitalism. To learn more about it and how you can protect yourself, read on.
Understanding Surveillance Capitalism
The term Surveillance Capitalism was coined by Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard Business School professor. It highlights how personal data is commoditized, relying heavily on behavior monitoring and algorithm tracking. This should explain why social media platforms and search engines are able to offer their services completely free of cost.
According to Zuboff, surveillance capitalism uses private human experiences, like free raw materials, for vital behavioral data. The data is then presented as suggestions and recommendations for products and services in behavioral futures markets, which revolves around business customers who want to know more about user behavior in the present and the future.
Overview of the Surveillance Economy
It is worth noting the internet has shifted its attention towards knowledge and services-based economy, especially since manufacturing jobs have moved to the global South and Asia.
Interestingly, Zuboff argues that surveillance capitalism is the evolution of capitalism, and she makes a good point.
Tech companies have created an elaborate ecosystem via surveillance-based business models to monitor user behavior online, like the posts they like, searches made online, the pages they follow, and their ecommerce transactions.
Machines that help people with sleep disorders secretly transmit data to insurers to keep payouts low. Toothbrushes that connect to smartphones track how often people brush their teeth and allow insurers to evaluate dental premiums. These are just a few examples of how the surveillance economy is growing and expanding rapidly.
Consider how much some of the biggest tech companies are making through advertising revenue to put things into perspective. Google alone made $138 billion in 2019 from advertising revenue, which is 70% of its total revenue. Meanwhile, Facebook’s managed to make $70 billion from advertising, which is 98% of its total revenue. It is clear tech companies have managed to win the ad-sales game, and they managed to pull this feat off by pursuing user data without holding back.
Tech companies have a ton of information on their users, which they can offer to advertisers on their platforms. Advertisers benefit from this information because they can target specific users. Even though tech companies may not be selling their data to third parties, they are gathering as much as they can to perfect their algorithms.
How Surveillance Capitalism Affects You
Some internet users may be okay with sacrificing their privacy for free services. They may be alright with their information being sold to the highest bidder, but it still has repercussions.
You need to understand that the algorithms set in place by tech companies could affect your subconscious state of mind.
Tech companies’ success relies on their ability to predict behavioral patterns accurately, leading to algorithms that give engagement top priority. Whenever internet users like or interact with posts, they are training algorithms to understand their preferences. This results in more content that caters to the user’s opinions.
Come to think of it; if this continues, internet users will be far removed from critical thought and free will. Simply put, if internet users hear and read what they believe in, how will they think outside the box?
Escaping Surveillance Capitalism
Now, if you are not willing to be part of a cog in the well-oiled machine that is surveillance capitalism, there are a couple of ways you can remove yourself from the equation, which are as follows:
- Use search engines that do not track any of your information, such as Startpage or DuckDuckGo.
- Carefully read the Terms of Service Agreements for sites you visit.
- Use browser add-ons like Do Not Track Plus, Privacyfix, or Ghostery to determine what sites are tracking you.
- Create different email addresses for other things.
- Clear out caches and cookies from your computer and devices more often than not.
- Use different passwords on different sites.
- Encrypt your internet connection by using a reliable VPN, like Ivacy VPN.
If you did not know about Surveillance Capitalism before, you are wiser about it now. If you do not want your private and confidential information from being misused, be sure to take the tips mentioned above into account to remain secure and anonymous online. Most importantly, use a reliable VPN at all times while browsing the internet to bolster your internet security and privacy like never before!