Surveillance Capitalism
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Work in Progress - Latest Dec 21, 2019

Abstract

Surveillance Capitalism - You Are Being Tracked. Many Internet services and devices using the internet are tracking you, and using your information for manipulation, and selling it on the Surveillance Capitalism Supply Chain.

ThumbsUp Surveillance Capitalism is Fact. It is firmly entrenched into our society. See Hype Cycle

Wild West

Once upon a time, wire tapping your telephone required a court order. Surveillance Capitalism is the wild west where law and order are very rare.

The corner stone of some hugh empires like Amazon, Facebook and Google business plans seem to be built on Surveillance Capitalism. Every transaction you have with them, may be exploited, packaged, and sold on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain.

What is Surveillance Capitalism?

Surveillance Capitalism - "A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales.


Google invented and perfected surveillance capitalism in much the same way that a century ago General Motors invented and perfected managerial capitalism. Google was the pioneer of surveillance capitalism in thought and practice, the deep pocket for research and development, and the trailblazer in experimentation and implementation, but it is no longer the only actor on this path. Surveillance capitalism quickly spread to Facebook and later to Microsoft. Evidence suggests that Amazon has veered in this direction, and it is a constant challenge to Apple, both as an external threat and as a source of internal debate and conflict.

— Shoshana Zuboff
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

To learn more about the sobering breath and depth of Surveillance Capitalism in the information age, read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Copyright ©2019 by Shoshana Zuboff, Professor at Harvard Business School.

Tracking

A Deep Dive

A deep dive by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) into the technology the The Corporate State is using to manipulate you, is a sobering read. The problem is far deeper than I imagined

trackers
Figure 1. Top Trackers

TL;DR

"Trackers are hiding in nearly every corner of today’s Internet, which is to say nearly every corner of modern life. The average web page shares data with dozens of third-parties. The average mobile app does the same, and many apps collect highly sensitive information like location and call records even when they’re not in use. Tracking also reaches into the physical world. Shopping centers use automatic license-plate readers to track traffic through their parking lots, then share that data with law enforcement. Businesses, concert organizers, and political campaigns use Bluetooth and WiFi beacons to perform passive monitoring of people in their area. Retail stores use face recognition to identify customers, screen for theft, and deliver targeted ads."

"The tech companies, data brokers, and advertisers behind this surveillance, and the technology that drives it, are largely invisible to the average user. Corporations have built a hall of one-way mirrors: from the inside, you can see only apps, web pages, ads, and yourself reflected by social media. But in the shadows behind the glass, trackers quietly take notes on nearly everything you do. These trackers are not omniscient, but they are widespread and indiscriminate. The data they collect and derive is not perfect, but it is nevertheless extremely sensitive."

Supply Chain

Those who are tracking you are packaging where you have been on the Internet and maybe personal information they have gathered about you. They may be selling your information on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain with or maybe without your permission, and without knowing what buyers may do with your information.

News Flash - September 5, 2019

Google’s "DoubleClick/Authorized Buyers" ad system is active on 8.4+ million websites. It broadcasts personal data about visitors to these sites to 2,000+ companies, hundreds of billions of times a day.

So much for "Don’t be evil".

Surveillance Capitalism supply chain buyers may buy more information about you from multiple sellers. They bundle information about you and sell it to other Surveillance Capitalism supply chain buyers. Advertising agencies are buyers of your information and target you with ads.

Some other Surveillance Capitalism supply chain buyers and sellers who are interested in you are, insurance, retail, finance, goods and service companies, and many more.

When any of the numerous buyers and sellers in the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain are breached, the stolen information about you may be sold to bad actors on the world wide black market.

Your Car is Spying on You

“The issue in the vehicle, see, is: We already know and have data on our customers. By the way, we protect this securely; they trust us,” Hackett said. “We know what people make. How do we know that? It’s because they borrow money from us. And when you ask somebody what they make, we know where they work, you know. We know if they’re married. We know how long they’ve lived in their house because these are all on the credit applications. We’ve never ever been challenged on how we use that. And that’s the leverage we got here with the data.”

"Ford seems to be seriously considering selling customer data. Worse, they are making a public pitch on the virtues of buying Ford data mining versus their competitors. "

"Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington."

"Carmakers’ ultimate objective, Lanctot said, is to build a database of consumer preferences that could be aggregated and sold to outside vendors for marketing purposes, much like Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) do today."

""The stakes are potentially huge: General Motors Co told investors earlier this year that it expects to realize an additional $350 million in revenue over three years from the high-speed data connections it is building into its cars."

"Consultant AlixPartners estimates global revenues from digitally connected cars will grow in value to $40 billion a year worldwide by 2018, from $16 billion in 2013, and auto companies would like to hold on to as much of that money as possible."

“The risk is, if you give up control and somebody else figures out that business model, then you lose the future revenue stream,” said Friedmar Rumpel, vice president in AlixPartners’ automotive practice."

"Consumers have good reasons to be concerned about the use of voice-recognition systems in cars,” says Christine Bannan, an attorney for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C. “There is a false narrative that because consumers embrace new technology, that means they are indifferent about privacy.”

"An estimated 120 million cars will be equipped with voice-recognition systems next year, up from 40 million in 2018, according to IHS Markit. Currently, most in-car systems are smartphone-based, but Amazon and Google are also developing embedded devices that can work in cars without being tethered to a phone."

"On a recent drive, a 2017 Chevrolet collected my precise location. It stored my phone’s ID and the people I called. It judged my acceleration and braking style, beaming back reports to its maker General Motors over an always-on Internet connection."

"Cars have become the most sophisticated computers many of us own, filled with hundreds of sensors. Even older models know an awful lot about you. Many copy over personal data as soon as you plug in a smartphone."

"But for the thousands you spend to buy a car, the data it produces doesn’t belong to you. My Chevy’s dashboard didn’t say what the car was recording. It wasn’t in the owner’s manual. There was no way to download it."

So is Your Streaming TV

News Flash: September 20, 2019

"Two independent sets of researchers this week released papers that measure the extent of the surveillance your TV is conducting on you."

"The most prevalent tracker, Google’s doubleclick.net, showed up in 975 of the top 1,000 Roku channels, with Google analytics trackers showing up in 360, the researchers found."

"Over on the Amazon side of things, perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon trackers were the most prevalent, showing up in 687 of 1,000 channels. Doubleclick trackers were found on 307 channels, and Facebook trackers were on 196."

"Tracking not only includes sending information about video titles, which you might expect, but also permanent device identifiers and wireless SSID information, the researchers found. A majority of the channels sending information back through trackers sent it unencrypted in plaintext, the researchers also found."

"Neraly all TV devices in our testbeds contact Netflix even though we never configured any TV with a Netflix account."

The article also discusses some streamer TV consumer options that may help you limit your streamer TV surveillance.

My Defense Against the Dark Arts

Here is what I’m doing to help not being a Surveillance Capitalism supply chain commodity

Internet Connection

The first step in my defense against the dark arts is to rely on a cable company only for an Internet connection.

I do not rent a network cable modem. I have my own that is approved by the cable company.

I do not rent a Wi-Fi router from the cable company. I have my own. I’m not supporting a cable company shared Wi-Fi access point for their customers.

The cable company does not have access to my cable modem or Wi-Fi router. I am confident information contained in these devices is not being packaged and sold on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain.

I am only dependent on the cable company for my Internet connection.


Domain Name Service

The next step in my defense strategy is not to use the cable company Domain Name Service (DNS) resolver that translates an Internet site name such as techtalkjohn.com into an Internet Protocol 104.27.135.182 address, so that a hugh cast of Internet network hardware can send requests to the web site.

Because of the ease of accessing all of your personal browsing information from their DNS services, some Internet service providers mine it, track the web sites you visit, and maybe use personal information they have gathered about you, to target you for ads. They may also sell your information on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain, with or maybe without your permission, and not knowing what buyers do with it.

Cloudflare

Check out Cloudflare 1.1.1.1 and find out about this free, fastest, and safest Domain Name Service (DNS) resolver. They believe privacy is a right. Cloudflare does not want to know what you do on the Internet. They do not sell you on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain.


Email Service

I have a Swiss Email Account. ProtonMail is incorporated in Switzerland and all servers are located there. All data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws.

Emails are secured automatically with end-to-end encryption. Even ProtonMail cannot decrypt and read my emails or share with third parties.

No personal information is required to create your secure email account. ProtonMail does not keep any logs that can be linked to my anonymous email account. Privacy comes first.

Think of ProtonMail as the antithesis of Gmail.

Ad Blocker

Ad nauseam is sickening and disgusting to me. My ad blocker keeps track of the number of ads, tackers, and threats that are blocked.

I’m flabbergasted by how many ads some web sites pummel me with, and how many sneaky trackers they try to infect me with.

Tracking is the meat and potatoes for many web sites. The more tracking data they get, the more they can sell on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain.


Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants are powered by AI technology and responds to user requests and voice commands.

Most contemporary virtual assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri seem to be in training using artificial intelligence learning methods, along with natural language processing and speech recognition. Users are supplying training material for the devices when using the product.

Quite impressive, but at a cost.

It was recently revealed that the major virtual assistant companies have been employing contractors world wide to listen and record conversations, and give feedback to companies to help virtual assistants with their training.

Google is involved in a federal lawsuit alleging that it violated children privacy laws and collected data using cookies, persistent identifiers which allowed YouTube and Google to target ads without parents consent.

News Flash - September 4, 2019

Google and subsidiary YouTube has been hit with a record $170 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission, to settle allegations the search company violated a law protecting children’s privacy.

My guess is paying $170M may be just a fraction of a days profits.

I like the ideas that companies be fined 15% or more of yearly profits for privacy violations and breaches that steal personal data.

I do like the concept of virtual assistants. I do not own one. I do not like the idea of being recorded and possibly being turned into Surveillance Capitalism supply chain fodder.


Social Media

Facebook is probably the best poster child the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain could have.

Facebook’s negative press seems to worsen daily. I think they are following the Ferengi Rules Of Acquisition 242. 'More is good, all is better.' No matter the cost.

Google and Facebook are the Surveillance Capitalism Top Trackers. I would guess the hugh volume of information they collect about their users, and sell on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain, may be a hefty chunk of the supply chain traffic.

I don’t know any social media service that doesn’t sell you on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain. There may be some that do not, but where is the profit in that?

I tried social media for a while, got bored, and disconnected before I knew about being sold on the Surveillance Capitalism supply chain.


Streaming TV

I use AppleTV to stream local or Internet material. I limit the number of streaming TV apps that Apple collects information from.

When streaming TV arrived in the marketplace, I quickly saw a train wreck ready to happen. I think some streaming TV vendors are much like some smartphone vendors. Their products are gizmos containing software. Their business is selling hardware and information they gather about you.

Many vendors are not in the business of writing or maintaining software, with a few exceptions. They seem to muck around until their bloatware and surveillance software fits into the hardware, and then sells it.

Some streaming TV vendors rationalize gathering, and selling your personal information and viewing data, as a way of helping pay manufacturing costs and selling price.

Several smart TV, like some smartphone vendors, are unwilling or unable to apply, test, or update their customer devices when operating system or other software is updated.

Spying Cars

I do not have one. When I do, it will have an Internet kill switch.


Summary

There are probably chinks in my armour against the Internet Surveillance Capitalism Dark Arts. I don’t think I’m low hanging fruit.

Like most of us, I think I have little defence against other Surveillance Capitalism Dark Arts.

  • Mobile app page sharing data with dozens of third-parties.

  • Aps that collect highly sensitive information like location and call records even when they’re not in use.

  • Shopping centers using automatic license-plate readers to track traffic through their parking lots, then share that data with law enforcement.

  • Businesses, concert organizers, and political campaigns using Bluetooth and WiFi beacons to perform passive monitoring of people in their area.

  • Retail stores using face recognition to identify customers, screen for theft, and deliver targeted ads.

  • More Surveillance Capitalism Dark Arts seem to appear daily.

When will the governments sworn to protect us step up to the challenge? Probably never, because they are subservient to the The Corporate State.

Contact

mugShot

John at johntelford dot com
Portland, Oregon

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