Your smart TV is probably watching you as you watch it, and Facebook almost definitely knows you better than you know yourself. Welcome to the era of “surveillance capitalism”, where our personal experiences are being converted into behavioural data and monetised. How did we get here and what can we do about it? Let’s take a Deep Dive.
🛍️ Some of the data is used to improve user experience, but much of it is sold to companies eager to know and influence our current and future needs. The issue lies with tech companies seeing our private data as a free resource for the taking—often without our consent.
“Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us. Once we thought of digital services as free, but now surveillance capitalists think of us as free.”
— Shoshana Zuboff, author, professor, social psychologist, philosopher and scholar
BY THE NUMBERS
700,000 In 2012, Facebook secretly conducted an experiment on nearly 700,000 of its users to see if having certain emotional words in their newsfeed would impact their status updates or posts they like after.
US$2.2 million TV maker Vizio was fined US$2.2 million in 2017 after it was found to have not properly sought the permission of its users to collect and resell information on their viewing habits.
US$19 billion In 2018, American companies spent some US$19 billion to acquire and analyse customer data.
10 million In 2019, it was revealed that Microsoft has a facial recognition training database containing more than 10 million images of nearly 100,000 people that it plucked from the internet without consent.
According to a survey, what percentage of Internet of Things (IoT) users are fine with seeing advertising on their devices, presumably in return for lower prices?
A. 55 percent
B. 65 percent
C. 75 percent
Scroll to the bottom of the email for the answer.
DID YOU KNOW?
Google is said to have invented surveillance capitalism in 2001, in response to growing investor pressure following the dot-com bubble bursting in 2000. The tech giant began harvesting surplus information about its users, on top of other information such as their web-browsing activities, to predict their interests and target them with related advertisements.
From refrigerators to cars, smart gadgets are a gold mine of user data—and they are becoming increasingly essential in our daily lives. As we advance deeper into an IoT world, what will become of our privacy? The chart below shows how complicated the situation is already, with the word count of the fine print for smart gadgets typically hitting the thousands.
Stephanie Sy founded data science consultancy Thinking Machines, which builds machine learning models for private and public organisations such as the World Bank and Unicef. Her ultimate mission is to use AI to make us all happier and healthier. READ MORE
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Did you miss our Deep Dive on Could The Revival Of Home Workouts Kill Gyms? Read it here
ONE FINAL THING
Gotta Catch ’Em All
Who would have thought that we would actually be pawns for profit in Pokémon Go—an innocuous game that has been downloaded more than a billion times? While we attempt to catch the imaginary creatures we've loved since childhood, we're also being herded to places like McDonald’s and Starbucks that have paid the game for footfall.
The Future Of Retail
That's it for this issue. Have a productive week!
The Deep Dive is a weekly close-up look at an idea, issue or trend that’s shaping Asia’s future. This issue was written by Chong Seow Wei, with editing and production by Samantha Topp and Lee Williamson.