Overflight, 34

If most of what people wanted to do online was to be able to tell their family, friends, and strangers what they were up to, and to be told what their family, friends, and strangers were up to in return, then all companies had to do was figure out how to put themselves in the middle of those social exchanges and turn them into profit. This was the beginning of surveillance capitalism, and the end of the Internet as I knew it. Now, it was the creative Web that collapsed, as countless beautiful, difficult, individualistic websites were shuttered. The promise of convenience led people to exchange their personal sites — which demanded constant and laborious upkeep — for a Facebook page and a Gmail account. The appearance of ownership was easy to mistake for the reality of it. Few of us understood it at the time, but none of the things that we’d go on to share would belong to us anymore. The successors to the e−commerce companies that had failed because they couldn’t find anything we were interested in buying now had a new product to sell. That new product was Us.

The data we generate just by living — or just by letting ourselves be surveilled while living — would enrich private enterprise and impoverish our private existence in equal measure. If government surveillance was having the effect of turning the citizen into a subject, at the mercy of state power, then corporate surveillance was turning the consumer into a product, which corporations sold to other corporations, data brokers, and advertisers.

Once you go digging into the actual technical mechanisms by which predictability is calculated, you come to understand that its science is, in fact, anti−scientific, and fatally misnamed: predictability is actually manipulation. A website that tells you that because you liked this book you might also like books by James Clapper or Michael Hayden isn’t offering an educated guess as much as a mechanism of subtle coercion.

We can’t permit our data to be used to sell us the very things that must not be sold, such as journalism. If we do, the journalism we get will be merely the journalism we want, or the journalism that the powerful want us to have, not the honest collective conversation that’s necessary.”
Edward Snowden, Permanent Record (mostly)