Admitted, “Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life” is a long and depressing read for a Friday. In this comprehensive report on the state of corporate surveillance, Wolfie Christl of Cracked Labs illustrates just how deep the logic of surveillance has evolved in today’s world:
This report finds that the networks of online platforms, advertising technology providers, data brokers, and other businesses can now monitor, recognize, and analyze individuals in many life situations. Information about individuals’ personal characteristics and behaviors is linked, combined, and utilized across companies, databases, platforms, devices, and services in real-time. With the actors guided only by economic goals, a data environment has emerged in which individuals are constantly surveyed and evaluated, categorized and grouped, rated and ranked, numbered and quantified, included or excluded, and, as a result, treated differently.
While acknowledging the value of regulation, Christl also expresses that true change can only be achieved through cultural change, with consent/choice only being means for the privileged to exclude themselves from the mainstream surveillance:
On a broader level, data protection legislation alone will not mitigate the consequences that a data-driven world has on individuals and society, whether in the US or Europe. While consent and choice are crucial principles to resolve some of the most urgent problems of intrusive data collection, they can also produce an illusion of voluntariness. […] it will generally require a major collective effort to realize a positive vision for a future information society. Otherwise, we might soon end up in a society of pervasive digital social control, where privacy becomes – if it remains at all – a luxury commodity for the rich.