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Surveillance Capitalism: The Cost of Data

Watching for a Pay Day

Surveillance capitalism is the act of earning money from surveillance in the simplest terms. Large companies who have access to massive data sets can reduce uncertainty and identify the probability that a future action will be taken by people. Many of these companies are collecting data about people in bulk, distilling it, and reselling that data to advertisers or companies to assist them in bolstering their ability to sell products.

The secondary use for large data sets is surveillance. If you can collaboratively build a dossier or database on someone, it is not a large stretch to apply the knowledge you have gained to matters of national security. However, this massive gathering of data that was once the business of governments is now being used by corporations and this has shifted the power structure tremendously from the government towards these organizations.

PokemonAn excellent and often cited example of surveillance capitalism is the game Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go is a game in which your location is tracked constantly, and your behavior distilled as you are provided "Pokemon" and other rewards for your efforts. This data can then be used to match photographs, time spent, network connections, phone activities, and more to a database that can then identify what products are more likely to sell to you and when and how they should be advertised.

Understanding how technology works, what the uses for that technology are, and how our privacy intersects with our comfort is of utmost importance. As a cyber instructor a the University of Advancing Technology, I take privacy and security very seriously, and our classes are designed to make you ask and answer some of the toughest ethical questions in the industry. 

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