Tuesday, November 29, 2022
HomeWorldOpinion - Latinoamérica21: Digitization and privacy: far beyond surveillance capitalism

Opinion – Latinoamérica21: Digitization and privacy: far beyond surveillance capitalism


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That the pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of everyday life, intensifying the online channeling of our activities or forcing a migration to the virtual world of those who supported an analog way of living, is not news to anyone.

The predominant reading, without questioning the medium and long-term consequences of this, is that the deepening of life anchored on the internet favors the democratization of information and communication as well as the facilitation of various routines.

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But this distance intermediation via the internet of our day-to-day activities is not neutral. It generates winners and losers, sharpens social inequalities, reduces the exchange of information and personal data to a logic of value production for companies in charge of digital mediation and expands surveillance and behavioral control over individuals, which erodes their freedoms. and rights.

It is the warning contained in the concept of “surveillance capitalism” elaborated mainly by social scientist Shoshana Zuboff.

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But to what extent is this perspective perceived by citizens? What fears remain with the deepening of the digitization of practices and uses? Who wins and who loses in the eyes of users?

The naturalization of life in networks

The changes that took place under the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns were projected to more and more scopes as part of a new reality in 2022 and beyond. Several studies point out that solid majorities believe that educational and training activities will be instrumentalized online (53%), that purchasing practices will become e-commerce (54%), and that civic activities such as participating in petitions or public hearings will occur, mostly or exclusively by digital means (58%).

The Market Analysis/WIN Network survey carried out in 39 countries confirms this trend while revealing an ambiguous reading of the process of radical change to the online sphere pushed by the pandemic, and an uncritical acceptance of the so-called surveillance capitalism, where our personal data and all kinds of records of our digital behaviors become valuable products for information technology companies.

The availability of personal information to strangers, such as particular tastes, family data, forms of contact and monitoring or circle of friends, which would hardly exist in face-to-face meetings given the low interpersonal trust that exists (as research points out), is relaxed. and released to the corporate universe due to the added value perceived in the expansion of the internet and the prevailing faith in technology displayed by society.

In the global sample, less than half of respondents say they are concerned about sharing information on social networks, ranging from a minimum of 47% at the end of 2019, before the pandemic and digital acceleration, to 48% by the end of 2021. In Latin America this divided look is more critical: before the confinements, 55% admitted they were afraid to expose their data and opinions online, a resistance that fell to 51% shortly before 2022.

Brazil is an exception. A vast majority of Brazilian society has always expressed concern about the sharing of personal information on networks, which rose from 70% in 2019 to 72% in 2021. This 2021 figure makes Brazil the leader in digital skepticism about sharing personal information networks, followed by China.

From the perspective of surveillance capitalism, which sees the user of networks as an object of exploitation and external profitability, skepticism can be a healthy source of protection. On the other hand, the current concern of Brazilians seems to result more from the lack of awareness about the destination of personal data on the networks, than an adverse experience browsing the internet or a conceptual criticism of the controlling and extractive functioning of the IT industry by which Users produce free profit for companies simply by entering digital contexts and, through their use, generate free data for companies that feed the algorithms, which are wisely monetized in services that we then all pay for.

A look at the online ecosystem

In fact, only half of Brazilians (49%) say they have an idea of ​​the destination of their data shared publicly and for free on the internet. In Latin American societies as a whole, this percentage is even lower, with only four out of ten (40%) claiming to be aware of what happens with data shared on the network. Prior to the pandemic, this sense of control over the occurrence and use of personal data was even lower (31% in Brazil, 32% in the Latin American region), suggesting that the digital plunge forced by quarantines induced a suspension of fears and a benevolent self-delusion in the individual relationship with social networks.

According to the survey, risk occurrences such as phishing, hacked email or personal data leakage did not change before and after the pandemic, varying within the survey’s margin of error. But there was an increase of about ten percentage points in the receipt of spam and in the incidence of hacked bank accounts or cards, which affected the elderly more, precisely the population that is less digitally literate.

But that doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to using technology in everyday life. The greater exposure to and colonization of our routines by online channels has not reflected in a significant increase in the number of people who are concerned about the availability of their data on the networks. And even with the increase in some cyber crimes and low awareness of the fate of this data, we continue to witness an overvaluation of digital media, with nine out of ten Brazilians considering information technology as a means of high importance in the organization of life.

The greater ascendancy of the online ecosystem as a result of the increased media coverage of our lives through social networks has barely implanted the doubt whether individuals are not working for free for big techs while using digital platforms “free of charge” daily and feeding their algorithms, at the same time. that expose themselves to a whole new set of real risks. In this sense, the data reveal a more optimistic than pessimistic, but rational, reading, as they point to a normalization of the low cost being paid via the dissemination of personal data and the potential compromise of privacy in exchange for the accessibility and remote convenience favored by the Internet.

In other words, the monetization of information freely provided by individuals through networks goes unnoticed or is naturalized as an acceptable cost, despite possible risks, given the benefits of digital access. This does not deny that most users are skeptical about sharing their data, but this reaction is not born out of a politicized awareness along the lines of the critique of surveillance capitalism., and, therefore, does not become an active search for ways to protect privacy and data security – which would be the next decisive steps for the sustainable consolidation of what we call the democratization of access.

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I have worked as a journalist for over 8 years. I have written for many different news outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNN. I have also published my own book on the history of the world. I am currently a freelance writer and editor, and I am always looking for new opportunities to write and edit interesting content.

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