Surveillance capitalism


Surveillance capitalism is a new term addressing the process of commodifying personal data with the core purpose of profit-making. Since personal data can be commodified it has become one of the most valuable resources on earth. The concept arose after advertising companies saw the possibilities of using personal data to target consumers more specifically.

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, collecting and processing data in the context of capitalism's core profit-making motive might present an inherent danger. Capitalism has become focused on expanding the proportion of social life that is open to data collection and data processing. This 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. Due to the capitalist market mechanism the increasing price of data has caused limited accessibility to the richest in society of buying personal data points.

Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
30.08.2019 – 12:41 CEST