The Age of Surveillance Capitalism


The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Over the years, Information Communication Technology have shaped human interactions and business operations. Popular technology firms such as Google and Facebook have participated in the secret extraction of individuals’ personal information from the online platforms. In essence, the tech firms have heralded a new era of surveillance capitalism in which user information is used to predict human behavior and eventually sold to generate profits for the technology firms.

Literature Review

Emergence of Data-driven Business Model

Surveillance capitalism has undergone unprecedented growth in the modern society due to the shift to information-based business models. Unlike in the past in which business operations depended on capital and labor, modern business world has been characterized by the emergence of data-driven business models (Zuboff 68). By embracing surveillance capitalism, global technology companies have developed a strategy of secretly mining user data from the virtual platforms and using the data to model and predict human behavior. Big data has redefined the way business utilize information for profit generation. Google has become the dominant player is generating user information for business purposes. The firm has managed to generate private user information that is the aggregated into predictive models and sold to business organizations for profit. Technology firms have recognized the significance of logic of accumulation in achieving internet governance.

Information-based learning has become the new form of labor as technology firms race to harness data for profit (Halloway 27). Silicon Valley companies especially Facebook and Google Incorporations have learnt how to produce sustainable revenue by predicting and modifying the behavior of internet users. The emergence of data-driven business model has brought a critical role in shaping the operations of business organizations. The tech firms sell big data to business entities in other sectors of the economy. According to Cohen (5), there are several ways through which the Silicon Valley companies extract big data from users. For example, the companies undertake massive email scanning, voice communication scanning and access to a user’s online search history. One major factor that ensures that the tech firms generate seamless user information is ignorance of the users in regards to privacy rights. In most cases, the people use the internet without reading the privacy setting and the existing regulations. The tech firms hence can easily access the user history and collect massive data for their own benefit.

Google and Facebook’s role in Surveillance Capitalism

Google’s main business is advertising hence requires big data for its daily operations. Despite the company being a tech company that has dominated the internet market over the years, Google generates a bulk of its income justifying its enormous profitability and market capitalization through selling advertisements. (Barassi 1558). In recent years, ad revenues have been changed by one step: Google’s advertising platforms for consumers include large Web sites, content networks and partners from third parties and their own services. Customizing and displaying Google ad content is largely done by machine learning techniques, which use the above-mentioned data to attract audiences with the kinds of ads that they may most probably click on.

Google also offers consumers of other products such as Photos some fascinating value-added services where sophisticated algorithms are used to generate dynamically edited images that fit a specific aesthetic value. In general, Google possibly uses its user information to power its main ad revenue stream. As other tech firms continue to adopt surveillance capitalism, Google has been at the forefront of mining user data without the users consent.

Works Cited

Barassi, V. Datafied times: Surveillance Capitalism, data technologies and the social construction of time in family life. New Media & Society, vol. 22, no. 9, 2020, pp.1545-1560.

Cohen, N.S.. The Valorization of Surveillance: Towards a political economy of Facebook. Democratic Communiqué, vol.22, no.1, 2008, pp.5-12.

Holloway, D.,. Surveillance Capitalism and children’s data: the Internet of toys and things for children. Media International Australia, vol. 170, no. 1, 2019, pp.27-36.

Zuboff, S.,. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier of power. Public Affairs, 2019, pp.1-717.


Discuss the concept of the ‘Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ according to Zuboff

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