Profitability is a driver for many new developments, yet their ethical side is not always taken into the proper assessment. Professor Shoshana Zuboff has raised a vital topic for modern society: data manipulation by big tech companies. Her position has helped me to realize a significant flaw in policies and regulations that outline methods of handling private and depersonalized information. In this paper, Shoshana Zuboff’s viewpoint will be presented alongside my response to the documentary.
Data Manipulation by Big Tech Companies
Nowadays, companies utilize the information that people inadvertently provide to them outside their intended input to acquire knowledge beyond what was imaginable in the past. In the early 2000s, Silicone Valley corporations realized the potential of data surplus, which is the excess information coming from users’ online actions (VPRO Documentary). Companies often state that they collect data for the betterment of their services, yet they utilize it for goals beyond simple marketing (VPRO Documentary). Modern data analysis technologies provide more than just a new way to improve a company’s services. They generate a digitalized version of a customer’s personality, preferences, and even subconscious desires, which is often used as a training model for simulations that predict one’s behavior (VPRO Documentary). This in-depth analysis goes beyond the limits of common marketing methods, and organizations use it to their advantage on a global scale.
In fact, the data from these sources often do not affect the users it was collected from. Instead, it is being employed as a tool for manipulation and control that remains essentially undetectable (VPRO Documentary). Despite companies’ claims that these technologies can improve the well-being of society, there are apparent methods that allow the exploitation of vulnerabilities of an individual stemming from these prediction models (VPRO Documentary). It is unimaginable how far such an unethical method of doing business can go without strict regulations.
This documentary has changed my views on many communication channels that I use daily. I agree with Shoshana Zuboff’s argument entirely, as this approach to handling data puts an individual at a disadvantage. However, this is not my primary concern, as users’ data may be used to shift the opinions of an entire community through unethical means. The opportunity to do both good and evil with such technology is immense. This fact puts such an in-depth surveillance method beyond what should be accessible by big tech companies, especially if their commitment to other businesses lies above their customers’ wishes. I believe that no third party is eligible to receive this data exhaust with no clear explanation and a lack of agreement with the initial source of this information.
In conclusion, surveillance capitalism in the form presented by Professor Zuboff is a dangerous tool that allows mass manipulation, thus requiring a strict set of policies that would prohibit unethical data collection. Personal information that would be otherwise inaccessible to big tech companies continues to slip past the users through overcomplicated terms of service, loopholes in privacy-related policies, and similar exploits. Mere depersonalization does not imply that the data will not represent the user in a way that will be detrimental to their personal interests. I believe that surveillance capitalism is not the path for modern society that any person knowledgeable on the topic would ever choose. This documentary has revealed the new way of dehumanization that must be stopped by governments across the globe.
VPRO Documentary. “Shoshana Zuboff on Surveillance Capitalism.” 2019, YouTube, Web.