Surveillance capitalism


Surveillance capitalism is a concept in political economics which denotes the widespread collection and commodification of personal data by corporations. This phenomenon is distinct from government surveillance, though the two can reinforce each other. The concept of surveillance capitalism, as described by Shoshana Zuboff, is driven by a profit-making incentive, and arose as advertising companies, led by Google's AdWords, saw the possibilities of using personal data to target consumers more precisely.

Increased data collection may have various advantages for individuals and society such as self-optimization (Quantified Self), societal optimizations (such as by smart cities) and optimized services (including various web applications). However, as Capitalism has become focused on expanding the proportion of social life that is open to data collection and data processing, these may come with significant implications for vulnerability and control of society as well as for privacy.

Economic pressures of capitalism are driving the intensification of connection and monitoring online with spaces of social life becoming open to saturation by corporate actors, directed at the making of profit and/or the regulation of action. Therefore, personal data points increased in value after the possibilities of targeted advertising were known. Consequently, the increasing price of data has limited accessibility to the purchase of personal data points to the richest in society.

Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST