The Age of Surveillance Capitalism Book Summary - The Age of Surveillance Capitalism Book explained in key points
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The Age of Surveillance Capitalism summary

Shoshana Zuboff

The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power

4.5 (314 ratings)
27 mins

Brief summary

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff is a critical analysis of the digital economy where personal data is extracted and monetized without consent. It examines the implications of such an environment for democracy, individual autonomy, and human experience.

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    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
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    In surveillance capitalism, all aspects of the human experience are turned into data and sold to a variety of businesses for a variety of reasons.

    Do you know to what degree your movements, speech, actions, experiences, and behaviors are being processed and sold by businesses like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon? Few of us do, and that’s just how the purveyors of surveillance capitalism would like to keep it.

    The key message here is: In surveillance capitalism, all aspects of the human experience are turned into data and sold to a variety of businesses for a variety of reasons.

    First and foremost, your personal data can help businesses better target their advertising efforts. Are you getting close to a McDonald’s? Here’s an ad for a Big Mac.

    But it can also help to create predictive products, such as virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, which are then used to collect more profitable data.

    Google was the trailblazer in surveillance capitalism and it remains the frontrunner. But it wasn’t long before other companies recognized the value of this new personal data market. After all, once Google began using the data to improve the accuracy of targeted ads, the company went from bleeding money to seeing a 3,590-percent increase in revenue – in just four years!

    Facebook was the first to follow in Google’s footsteps, and they’re the only ones who rival Google in the sheer amount of accumulated data. In a 2015 study at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers looked at the top one million most popular websites. They found that 90 percent of them leak personal data to an average of nine outside domains where this information is tracked and used for commercial purposes. Of the websites that leak data, 78 percent send information to Google-owned outside domains, while 34 percent send to Facebook-owned domains.

    Like Google, Facebook sells advertisers targeting data that includes email addresses, contact information, phone numbers, and website visits from across the internet. In 2012, Facebook added a brief mention of this new tracking policy to a new terms-of-service agreement that was so lengthy that few people were likely to read every word. This kind of unreadable contract is a typical surveillance capitalism tactic. 

    Such tracking is not limited to internet browsing, however. Other studies have found that many apps sold for Google Android devices contain trackers that leak personal information even when they’re not actively being used. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Google Android devices themselves, like most “smart” devices being sold these days, provide a constant stream of location and behavior data.

    How did we get here? Why does using the internet or digital products now essentially mean opening the door to aggressive monitoring by unknown parties? In the next couple of blinks, we’ll look at how surveillance capitalism came to be.

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    What is The Age of Surveillance Capitalism about?

    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (2019) provides a revealing look at just how committed companies like Google and Facebook are to tracking every one of your actions and selling that data to advertisers. Over the past few years, this business practice has become one of the most prominent worldwide, and the harmful effects it has on personal liberty and democracy are becoming more apparent.

    Listed on The Guardian’s Best 100 Books of the 21st Century

    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism Review

    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (2019) is a thought-provoking exploration of the impact of big tech companies on our privacy and personal data. Here's why this book is definitely worth your time:

    • It unveils how tech giants exploit our personal data and reshape economies, offering a critical analysis of the digital age we live in.
    • By examining the rise of surveillance capitalism, the author provides insights into the power dynamics between individuals, corporations, and governments.
    • With its meticulous research and detailed case studies, the book delivers a comprehensive understanding of the implications for democracy, society, and the future of humanity.

    Best quote from The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

    There was a time when you searched Google, but now Google searches you.

    —Shoshana Zuboff
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    Who should read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism?

    • Users of Google or Facebook
    • People who value privacy and free will
    • Anyone curious about how much personal data is being collected

    About the Author

    Shoshana Zuboff has a PhD in social psychology from Harvard University, as well as BA in philosophy from the University of Chicago. She is currently the Charles Edward Wilson Professor emerita at Harvard Business School. Her previous books include In the Age of the Smart Machine.

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    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism?

    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism explores the dark side of technology and how our personal data is being exploited for profit.

    How long does it take to read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism?

    The reading time for The Age of Surveillance Capitalism varies. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Age of Surveillance Capitalism a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is an eye-opening book that delves into the dangers of data capitalism.

    Who is the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism?

    The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is written by Shoshana Zuboff.

    What to read after The Age of Surveillance Capitalism?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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