miércoles, 10 de julio de 2019

"The Age of Surveillance Capitalism" - Shoshana Zuboff

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of PowerThe Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The age of surveillance capitalism" is one of the books of the season among those interesting on the process of the digital transformation of the society and economy. Furthermore, I´m pretty sure it will transcend this season and becomes one of those few books that will inform digital policy-making for a long time. However, it´s not perfect as a book, in order to illustrate her theories, the author provides an excessive number of examples with more details that are needed.

I was fortunate to attend a key note given by Shoshana Zuboff three years ago, when I supposed she was writing this book. She was extremely passionate describing the concept of surveillance capitalism int the same terms as she described in the book. In the same manner as she does in the book, she started describing its origins in the day when a then small company called Google discovered that the data collected providing services could be used not only for improving services, but also to extract (without asking for permission) a behavioral surplus that allows to predict the future behavior of users, that could be the base for building up services for third parties.

But the exploitation of an innovative business (and surveillance capitalism deserves this qualification) needs for its consolidation a strategy. The author also shows how the mix of aggressive lobbying, revolving doors and penetration into the academy have provided Google (and others after) a competitive advantage based on its image of innovative and benefical-for-all company. This competitive advantage has been the base for an incremental development of a set of products beyond its origin as a search page, all them base on a production cycle of incursion (providing a product that aims to obtain some personal information of the users by surprise), habituation (making the service a need for users), adaptation (introducing minor changes to answer the critics on violating privacy) and redirection (looking for new manners to extract more personal information). The author rightly compares this dispossession cycle of personal information with the conquer strategies of colonial powers, that claimed more and more territories for their Empires without nay other base than brute force.

As you read the book, you will go deeper in Alice's rabbit hole. The bigger issue with surveillance capitalism companies is not the massive accumulation of data that serves for creating new services for third party which are basically the selling of privacy spheres of people (e.g. the Cambridge Analytics case). The most worrisome consequence its the capacity that these companies acquire to automate the behaviour of people in what the author called "instrumentarianism.", which we sometimes wrongly confuse with totalitarianism. That instrumentarianism. is a new political model basically on the hands of private companies more powerful than governments, only makes things worst.

As I have started, this is a must read book. Perhaps its teorethical part woulld have been explained in less pages, but perhaps that would have mean making the book less asequible to people which are not familiar with digital services. The only possible comparison with other book that I can establish is with Piketty's "Capital in the 21st century", and it will be equally influential for some years.


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