A review of the book: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier of power, by Shoshana Zuboff
The Data mining Game
This author grasps the full enormity of our problem and thus casts her net widely by framing her book with a very general and provocative question: Has the new computerized home awareness ecosystem changed the fundamental nature of what we know as home?
In 2000, Georgia Tech began a seemingly innocent project dubbed "Aware Home." It's intent was to produce a wearable computerized data retrieval system that would allow in-home users to operate their appliances from their watch, laptop, or cell phone. The cars, ovens, lights, and fitness trackers, could be turned on before the garage door was opened.
However, this author argues rather convincingly, that perhaps these new marginal conveniences, may have come at too prohibitive a cost.
Based on simplicity, trust, and above all the principle of the sovereignty of the homeowner's privacy, Google's Nest thermostat was the first "aware home." It's data was collected and relayed, ostensibly for the owner's sole private use, through a WiFi server.
When the data was uploaded, a chain-linked data revolution was about to erupt.
A new kind of power based on the knowledge acquired from the home was unleashed on the world and at the unsuspecting owners expense.
It was a power invoked by a chain of linked Trojan horses parked inside the "unaware homeowner's" appliances and transmitted via a data-linked chain to other vendors.
The chain was protected by an opaque contract of carefully worded legal mumbo-jumbo whose effect was to hide deep in the fine print, the real terms of the deal, that in effect said: "If You do not give us your data unencumbered, the control devices we sold you may not work the way they are intended?"
What was left unsaid, hidden behind these cleverly written legal encumbrances, were two things: First, "we are not responsible for what happens to the data we provide to other vendors farther down the data chain;" and second: "the enormous wealth being carted away from the surplus data being mined at your expense, will be withheld from you."
This linked-chain of missing contracts with the pot of gold at the end of the data rainbow, broke new technological ground. And a new data-linked outlaw frontier was born.
It constituted a new eco system that allowed data miners further along the chain, to buy captured surplus data from unaware homeowners, undetected and accountable to no one.
This new business model, subtly injected into the corporate bloodstream, amounted to data theft on a global scale. And, the surplus data culled from the background of both home appliances and social media platforms, was then sold on a new data futures market.
In short, private information and surplus desiderata, culled from owners, as self-authorized extractions of human experience for profits, was the food for predictive algorithms that made forecasts on the "big data" futures board, and did so, for good or evil.
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