If you recently bought or searched for a product, for example a mind mapping software, then ads of mind mapping softwares will invade you and will follow you around for some period of time. This system is called surveillance capitalism and it’s as scary as it sounds. In other words, it is an economic system which surveilles the population through the Internet, with only one purpose: making profit.
Companies within this system
The first company to be known to sell personal data is Google itself, being a company which saw the possibility of making money and have a more targeted type of advertising by using personal data. What does this mean for citizens and for the Internet users?
As nothing is free in this world, people have to be aware that if they don’t buy a product, they are the product. Even though Google seems to be free, it does, in fact, store our data so it can use it later, in a more detailed Ads targeting or retargeting. That’s why this whole system called surveillance capitalism is, in fact, a danger for autonomy and civil rights.
Companies like Facebook, Youtube, Google and so on store our data when we use their sites and apps and they make models based on our activity. To be even more precise, when you like or dislike something, it makes it even clearer for them what type of person you are, whether you’re likely to buy a type of product or not, what you desire and so on. Then they feed you with ads that you’re most likely to respond to and buy from. This is based on the use of Artificial Intelligence.
Furthermore, there are companies which buy datas, create models out of our personalities and then sell the data. Even small companies have started joining this game.
People who don’t use these platforms may be surveilled, too. Companies create shadow profiles, which contain some data about this type of person, just because they interacted with someone who is present on these platforms.
How surveillance capitalism works
Things are getting even scarier, as we learn that these platforms can actually predict our behaviour and actions regarding any situation. For example, they are able to predict whether you’re going to like a post of your friend or not, or whether you will buy a specific product. That’s why Facebook will only show you relevant ads. As we’ve said before, the more you feed their algorithms with data, the more accurate and relevant the ads that they show you will be.
The use of AI doesn’t stop here, as these big companies continue to carry out experiments on their users, to better understand and predict their actions.
Another important aspect of these platforms is that they want to keep you there as long as possible, in order for them to make as much money as possible. To put it in another way, the more time you spend on these platforms, the more ads you see and they receive more money from the advertisers. That’s exactly why these platforms seem so appealing, so that they can keep you there like a prisoner. The Internet is the poison that we choose.
What happened in 2020?
In 2020, the COVID pandemic began and nobody could foresee this coming. However, we weren’t totally unprepared. Companies like Apple and Google partnered in order to help the whole world. This also meant a new stage of surveillance capitalism. It’s just that this time it has been used for higher purposes, or at least apparently. We will see the real effects of this within the next few years, when this crisis will come to an end.
Until them, all we know is that apps have been created to trace the existence and spread of Coronavirus in different countries, which is really useful for the government, as well as for the medical healthcare system. That’s because the spread of COVID could be monitored and could be under control to some extent. Moreover, by using AI, the vaccine to this virus was found and the vaccination of the population could finally begin and life can come back to the normal we’ve known and loved.
The benefits of the surveillance capitalism
On the other hand, this economic system recently developed can have its benefits. What differentiates the Internet from the television is not only that TV is dead and the Internet is more alive than ever, but the way in which they treat their potential customers. While on the TV the Ads weren’t and still aren’t as targeted as on the Internet, the first type of ads addresses a larger audience, which may make them irrelevant for many people.
Furthermore, people don’t have irrelevant information in their news feed on Facebook or Instagram anymore; they actually get the data, the news they’re interested in. Furthermore, as the Ads get more and more personalized, they become more relevant and actually help the potential customers connect with the businesses they’re searching for.
This is actually very beneficial for the small and medium business owners, who are able to survive because of the Internet. By getting new clients, they are able to develop and offer more and more high quality services to their customers.
Another aspect which we find to be interesting and important is that the way in which marketing was perceived has changed. A lot. Digital Marketing is the new black. Moreover, lots of jobs were created for marketers: SEO, Facebook, Instagram, CPC specialist, Youtube Advertiser, Influencer, Email Marketing specialist.
To sum up
In conclusion, the surveillance capitalism has both advantages and disadvantages. While it exposes our data and wants to make profit out of our Internet usage, it also created jobs which before weren’t possible. All of this is possible thanks to Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Nevertheless, it’s up to mankind whether this powerful machine will be used for good or evil purposes. Start learning more about this subject with Auxilio and train your own models for machine learning!
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