NetGuide: Your Privacy Resource Guide.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, by Shoshana Zuboff
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a non-fiction best-seller book written by Harvard University’s professor Shoshana Zuboff and published in 2018. Zuboff has been researching and writing about technology’s impact on society since the early 1980s.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is the culmination of Zuboff’s academic efforts in the field – efforts which started when the computer was only beginning to sneak into people’s homes. It’s a 700+ page book uncovering the business model that today drives the commodification of user behaviour en masse. That is, it describes the economic system that Zuboff names ‘surveillance capitalism’.
As the word ‘surveillance’ suggests, Zuboff’s book is essentially about privacy – or, more precisely, about large-scale breaches of privacy. It’s also an overt critique of capitalism. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism places the configuration of our current digital environments historically, explaining how the Information Age followed from the Industrial Revolution.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is not an incredibly hard read, but it is quite long and dense. Though really enlightening, the book might be a lot to take in for those who have little to no previous knowledge of digital privacy matters.
The Black Box Society, by Frank Pasquale
In the Black Box Society, published in 2015, new media scholar Frank Pasquale discusses how hidden algorithms make decisions based on data generated by our Internet use. He explains how these automated choices can make or break a person’s (or even a society’s) future, even when those affected are largely unaware of such processes.
Exploring the role of algorithms within large finance and information companies, Pasquale addresses topics such as the automated determining of reputation in various areas of life, the personal implications of search technologies, and ‘opaque models and practises in financial markets’. He also offers suggestions to improve such opaque systems, both in the shape of legislation and in the form of alternative economic models.
A must read for those who already have some knowledge of privacy and technology matters!
Weapons of Math Destruction, by Cathy O’Neil
In Weapons of Math Destruction, data scientist and mathematician Cathy O’Neil attempts to shine a light on the hidden work of the algorithms that pervade modern life – they are the backbone of most automated processes today. Drawing from examples in the United States’ education, housing, banking, and other sectors, O’Neil refutes the argument that algorithmic processes are always neutral. Despite being mathematical models, their application can be seriously biassed in favour of powerful interests.
Weapons of Math Destruction goes beyond traditional privacy debates and establishes links between algorithmic transparency and accountability to issues of race, class and gender. O’Neil recognises that the secret uses of our data can be especially harmful to members of minority groups – and thus, they increase inequality and threaten democracy. She calls for more effective policy making to ensure technological responsibility, end discrimination and protect citizen privacy in light of algorithmic processes.
Author: Ana Luiza Loio Becil
Image: Luisa Brimble via Unsplash