Surveillance Capitalism and Democracy

Talk given by Shoshana Zuboff on November 6, 2019 in Berlin

The collection and analysis of data is changing the way economies operate. Are these changes so fundamental that they can be said to have led to the emergence of a new form of capitalism – surveillance capitalism? If people’s behaviour is made increasingly transparent, do we become a society in which trust is no longer necessary? Are individuals a mere appendage to the digital machine, objects of new mechanisms which reward and punish according to the determinations of private capital? How is social cohesion affected when people become dispensable as a labour force, while their data continues to provide function as a source of value in lucrative new markets that trade in predictions of human behaviour? How should we understand the new quality of power that arises from these unprecedented conditions? What kind of society does it aim to create? And what ramifications will these developments have for the principles of liberal democracy? Will privacy law and anti-trust law be enough? How can we tame what we do not yet understand?

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