Democracy is under the new threat of new surveillance state and in many nations across the globe; surveillance methods have permeated official government security functions. The emergence of new digital technology and the digital economy has shifted the typology of both government functions and private corporations seeking to promote their products. The convergence of the interests of corporations and the state on data has threatened the traditional constitutional safeguards of individual privacy to a bare minimum. In theory, both government and the corporate sector increasingly need private data from people to advance their varied interests. For the state, the needs for offering adequate security surveillance has clearly tilted the typology towards excessive data tapping from smartphones and other handy gadgets. The process of governance and business transactions in the new lifestyle depends entirely on the availability of data to support the new economic model and with it the need for extensive data privileges to the public domain.
Surveillance capitalism has become inevitable because the economic model itself depends on data, and although it promises greater business efficiency and greater ease of governance, the cost in terms of private data symphonic could be terrifying. As the digital economy becomes the mainstream, the convergence of many technologies will inevitably deprive everyone the privileges of autonomy and personal privacy because massive databases equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) and other analytic functions will effectively compare data sets and group credentials giving each one a perfect portrayal. Moreover, biometric identification technology that has been at the forefront of public policy globally will augment data sets yielding an astounding complete personal identification on diverse platforms. Moreover, global positioning technology embedded in different handy gadgets will enable state agencies to tag individual identities to a location, thus making it possible for the interaction with local networked business environments, functions, and organizations.
A trove of location data obtained in a recent expose indicates the extent to which surveillance state has trampled on the rights of Americans. Attendance to a political function and everyday movement yield massive data about the individual, which ends up in the hands of the state and political entities. Such technologies can trace the movement of individuals from political events back to their homes and workplace yielding considerable risks when such data sets may land in the wrong hands of agencies seeking to use them for political manipulation like in the last case of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Cloud computing facilities warehouse massive data derived from diverse surveillance systems tapping face recognition, geographical positioning, and intrinsic data about ones financial and social engagements. As the debate on privacy laws drag with the Federal Trade Commission, the surveillance capitalists are tapping tons of private information from Americans, which will not be undone.
Technically, the digital economy will only function optimally when all the pertinent data to transactions and lifestyle can be tapped and interpreted. Better monitoring functions, personalization and customizations as well as continuous experimentation functions will only achieve substantial pedigree when massive data is already tapped to construct prototypes of portrayals of individuals. Moreover, computer-aided transaction is a useful gateway through which very useful data is tapped already by the surveillance capitalists for diverse programming and artificial functions facilitation. Mobility also becomes a critical data component because without the capacity to tag personal credentials to location, other affiliated functions of commercial nature may be hard to solicit and advance. Moreover, the surveillance capitalism is a concept of total knowledge in the sense that the understanding of mobility goes deeper to the means of transportation, and other concerns, which help in public planning, budgeting, and controls.
Both private corporations and public sector institutions in law enforcement, social welfare, public transportation agencies and security firms need extensive data to be able to deploy critical security functions. Currently, the needs for rapid disaster preparedness and awareness require the gathering of real-time data about diverse geographical locations dealing with unique security threats and risks. Nevertheless, the risks become more severe when such extensive data lands in the work organizations and can be used for covert goals. The privileges of personal privacy have dwindled to a point people feel digitally controlled because as everyone devotes more time to their digital devices, they are surrendering more personal information daily to the surveillance capitalists, which end up being processed to tag them so a social score. Data may be useful to contain public problems like pandemics, epidemics, disaster response preparedness, and the control of crime. More data from individuals may help in the planning of health welfare programs, but such data also bear a critical risk when they are abused by organizations advancing political agenda against the will of the people beyond the democratic process.
In conclusion, state agencies need increasingly to tap all personal data for use in profiling which may help advance the public good through better security installations and support to the transaction process on the digital platforms. Private organizations also need such data because they use it to advance relevant business and economic functions embedded in the digital platforms. However, the main risk in the use of such data is that it goes against the constitutional privileges of the individual and may be used by individuals or organizations to further criminal goals. One thing is undeniable, that massive private information will naturally be available to the surveillance capitalists, and people increasingly surrender the data unknowingly through social media and insecure transaction platforms.
Gates, Kelly A. Our biometric future: Facial recognition technology and the culture of surveillance. Vol. 2. NYU Press, 2011.
Warzel, Charlie, and Stuart A. Thompson. “How Your Phone Betrays Democracy.” The Privacy Project. The New York Times, December 22, 2019.
Zuboff, Shoshana. “You Are Now Remotely Controlled: Surveillance Capitalists Control the Science and the Scientists, the Secrets and the Truth.” The New York Times. The New York Times, January 24, 2020.
. Zuboff, Shoshana. “You Are Now Remotely Controlled: Surveillance Capitalists Control the Science and the Scientists, the Secrets and the Truth.” The New York Times. The New York Times, January 24, 2020.