Google (Alphabet), Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon. They are among the world's most valuable and most trusted companies, but increasingly the most scrutinized for their data-hoarding practices, monopolist tendencies, poor treatment of workers and willingness to bend or even break privacy laws in the pursuit of growth. More data gives these and other tech firms a more accurate picture of individual tastes and broader societal trends. Companies, governments, political parties and anyone else with a vested interest in altering your behaviour or changing your mind will pay handsomely for this information, driving the surveillance economy further and further into our personal lives.
Are we the consumer, the product or the raw material in this business model? Is there a limit to how much personal information can be mined and privatized? Is “surveillance capitalism” really any different from regular capitalism applied to the internet? Can we separate out the good from the bad in the on-demand online economy? Where does the state fit in? And is there anything we can do to change course? These are not easy questions to answer. We give it a shot anyway in this issue of the Monitor, offered to you cookie-free and without terms of service.
Here's a sample of what you'll find in the issue:
We need to talk about the surveillance economy. Now. Jenna Cocullo surveys the contours of "surveillance capitalism" as understood by Shoshana Zuboff in her new book.
Power, privilege and resistance in the digital age. Digital technology does not itself change the world, but we can use and redesign it to fight for a sustainable and different future, writes Tanner Mirrlees.
Is the future human? Meagan Bell argues that by transforming us into "smart citizens," surveillance capitalism threatens our ability to think, act and resist.
Extractive capital and the surveillance state. Lindsey Bertrand finds evidence that police surveillance of pipeline protests is chilling democratic debate in Canada.
Inner daemons: To dismantle surveillance capitalism, we must reimagine the machine built in its service, writes Fenwick McKelvey.
- It's time to stop trading away Canadian culture. Federal commitments to strong cultural policies are only as good as the next big trade deal we negotiate, says Garry Neil.
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Cover illustration by Jessica Fortner.