Maybe we should all be worried about "Surveillance Capitalism". Is it coming? Is it already here?
Some are very worried.
Their concern has been fed by a new book, "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power" by Shoshanna Zuboff.
Axios Future upped the debate temperature today with its new "Special report - Surveillance capitalism".
"... all but invisible to most of us, a new capitalism has already taken place, one created by the tech behemoths that dominate Silicon Valley... [with] a hidden aim: to know every possible thing, public and private, in real time, about you and every other reachable individual on the planet ... And with that knowledge, to win entry to a fabulously elite economy that has already assumed great power in the world."
Quite an indictment.
A more moderated analysis and criticism from another community -- academic scholars with intellectual "standing", on this vast socio/economic issue -- has focused on the need for new internet antitrust regulations centering on consumer welfare: "To Take Down Big Tech, They First Need to Reinvent the Law" :
Bottom line from one of the academics: "What kind of society do we want?"
Well, Axios warns that surveillance technology can become near ubiquitous -- and even dangerous.
"... many of the world's biggest legacy companies want in on the bonanza - the Detroit carmakers, banks, insurance providers, retailers, health care firms, educators and anyone else who intersects with customer data...
"But life inside the home, too, is increasingly transparent to watchful outsiders, the result of mushrooming internet-connected devices that consumers are setting up in their dens and bedrooms.... Internet-connected devices can pick up your voice, interests, habits TV preferences, meals, times home and away and all sorts of other sensitive data. The gadgets send all this back to the tech companies where they were made."
And possibly the greatest concern: "At the Center for a New American Security, a new program tracks 'High tech illiberalism', mostly in the form of surveillance conducted by countries like China."
All this, and yet, according to Axios, some consumers/citizens don't seem worried. A good many of them, especially young adults, are comfortable with a tradeoff -- privacy for cool stuff.
"Tech companies in the surveillance game are betting hard on one thing: that consumers -- especially younger ones -- won't care too much what you know about them as long as you give them cool stuff...
"The big picture: Per a February IBM survey, 71% of consumers say it's worth sacrificing privacy for the benefits of technology. A whopping 81% say they're concerned about how their data is used. But only 45% have actually updated privacy settings in the past year.
"According to an Axios /Survey Monkey poll, 46% of consumers aged 18-24 always accept a company's privacy policies without reading a single word...
"Consumers' big gamble is that companies won't do anything untoward with their personal information."
Axios presents this -- hopefully atypical - consumer:
"I just don't care. As a friend put it, 'Take my data; give me free s_____ ' '.
So Axios, to sum up the status and future of surveillance capitalism, channels the author:
"But Zuboff says it doesn't have to be this way. "The big lie, she writes, is that this is inevitable. We can easily imagine digital technology without surveillance capitalism."
Easy to imagine it, perhaps. Achieving it -- not so easy.