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Book Review - The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Where do you start your review of a book that reshaped your whole perspective on the society you live in? When the things you kind of knew but didn’t really want to know more deeply about gets spelt out to you in a language you can actually comprehend, but not a hundred percent sure you want to deal with. Do you start with your comprehension or with praising the author?

Surveillance is to a degree something we have all accepted to be exposed to on some level; be it your government or your phone. But the levels at which Shoshanna dives in to, explaining how encompassing surveillance capitalism is, globally, and the sneaky and innocent looking ways by which we are monitored with, exposes the sinister nature of why we are monitored. It isn’t for personal safety, or even really for global safety, it is for the capitalist gains of corporations and governments to duplicate, manufacture and control individual behaviour.

Many have scoffed at my reluctance to use fingerprint or facial recognition on any of my IT, calling it superstition and/or ridiculous. After reading The Age of Surveillance Capitalism I’m very glad I haven’t succumbed to the taunts by my peers and kept my details to myself. My reluctance has never been because I felt I had something to hide or of being scared of something happening to my information. My reluctance have been in the lack of understanding why companies would have any use for all of my information. Yes, I can unlock my phone 2 seconds faster, but why can’t I request that the company in charge of scanning or collecting my information makes sure it is not saved on their servers for infinity or to have it permanently deleted from their servers? Who are they to decide what is to be done with my information?

Shoshanna goes into great detail when explaining the value of your personal details for corporations, as well as why your details are so valuable - as long as you are not yourself in charge. The great deception of being told “what have you got to hide?” scares us more than wondering “why do you want to control information which isn’t yours to begin with?”. We might tell ourselves that we are in control, but we lose sight of the fact that there is almost nothing in this world that we buy or use that doesn’t come with extensive terms and conditions that we are forced to agree to, allowing companies to monitor aspects of our lives they shouldn’t realistically need access to. To be part of society you need to keep up with the latest phones, computers, cars or tv’s. Because the people who controls the system these devices run on update them so we need to upgrade in order to retain access to the services. This means we are now forever locked in the need for new technology and have no other option than to agree to corporations extracting and using our information as they please.

We have no say. We have lost autonomy. And for what? What is our benefit? In comparison to the billions of dollars corporations make off of the free data we give them - none.

The book is a provoking call to action against the corporations and individuals who are benefiting the most from surveillance capitalism. The complex structures that decades of this type of surveillance have built up are shown in a more bite size format and exposed in a way that you can’t unread. Radicalising even the least radical of us.

I feel like I have gained a new language against a perpetrator I didn’t fully understood the existence of prior to reading The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. It is a remarkable book and at once both easy to understand and complex in its details. As the saying goes “if you are not angry yet, you are not listening”. If you are not triggered, angered or worried at one point or another when you read through these chapters - you are not paying enough attention.

Erica S - Host of A Sceptic Blonde Podcast


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