Surveillance has been hijacked by capitalism
Shoshana Zuboff has written an article The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism which is widely debated on the net. She states that
Capitalism has been hijacked by a lucrative surveillance project that subverts the “normal” evolutionary mechanisms associated with its historical success and corrupts the unity of supply and demand that has for centuries, however imperfectly, tethered capitalism to the genuine needs of its populations and societies, thus enabling the fruitful expansion of market democracy.
Surveillance capitalism is a novel economic mutation bred from the clandestine coupling of the vast powers of the digital with the radical indifference and intrinsic narcissism of the financial capitalism and its neoliberal vision that have dominated commerce for at least three decades, especially in the Anglo economies. It is an unprecedented market form that roots and flourishes in lawless space.
I disagree with her assessment. Rather, it is just the logical consequence of our current monetary system. As Charles Eisenstein writes in chapter 5 of his book Sacred Economics:
For the economy to grow, the realm of money-denominated goods and services must grow too. Money must meet more and more of our needs. Gross domestic product, after all, is defined as the sum total of the goods and services a nation produces. Only those exchanged for money count.
If I babysit your children for free, economists don’t count it as a service or add it to GDP. It cannot be used to pay a financial debt; nor can I go to the supermarket and say, “I watched my neighbors’ kids this morning, so please give me food.” But if I open a day care center and charge you money, I have created a “service.” GDP rises and, according to economists, society has become wealthier. I have grown the economy and raised the world’s level of goodness. “Goods” are those things you pay money for. Money = Good. That has been the equation of our time.
When “the Chief Data Scientist of a much-admired Silicon Valley company” says
“The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale. When people use our app, we can capture their behaviors, identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad. We can test how actionable our cues are for them and how profitable for us”.
they are only looking for ways to expand the monetary sphere to “your daily life”, as Zuboff writes herself:
The game is selling access to the real-time flow of your daily life –your reality—in order to directly influence and modify your behavior for profit. This is the gateway to a new universe of monetization opportunities: restaurants who want to be your destination. Service vendors who want to fix your brake pads. Shops who will lure you like the fabled Sirens. The “various people” are anyone, and everyone who wants a piece of your behavior for profit.
Thus: Surveillance has been hijacked by capitalism. Not the other way round. Because capitalism hijacks everything that can be commoditized and monetarized.
Update from 2020/08/31: Cory Doctorow has written a looong article (and a book) on the subject – How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism.