This interview was pretty interesting/terrifying and hey maybe it’d be easier to not even think about this and just la la la la la continue on like nothing is happening and wow new season of bojack horseman is coming out soon? So exciting.
SCHNEIER: Surveillance is the business model of the internet. Everyone is under constant surveillance by many companies, ranging from social networks like Facebook to cellphone providers. This data is collected, compiled, analyzed, and used to try to sell us stuff. Personalized advertising is how these companies make money, and is why so much of the internet is free to users. We’re the product, not the customer.
GAZETTE: Should they be stopped?
SCHNEIER: That’s a philosophical question. Personally, I think that in many cases the answer is yes. It’s a question of how much manipulation we allow in our society. Right now, the answer is basically anything goes. It wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, Congress passed a law to make a particular form of subliminal advertising illegal because it was believed to be morally wrong. That advertising technique is child’s play compared to the kind of personalized manipulation that companies do today. The legal question is whether this kind of cyber-manipulation is an unfair and deceptive business practice, and, if so, can the Federal Trade Commission step in and prohibit a lot of these practices.
GAZETTE: Why doesn’t the commission do that? Why is this intrusion happening, and nobody does anything about it?
SCHNEIER: We’re living in a world of low government effectiveness, and there the prevailing neo-liberal idea is that companies should be free to do what they want. Our system is optimized for companies that do everything that is legal to maximize profits, with little nod to morality. Shoshana Zuboff, professor at the Harvard Business School, invented the term “surveillance capitalism” to describe what’s happening. It’s very profitable, and it feeds off the natural property of computers to produce data about what they are doing. For example, cellphones need to know where everyone is so they can deliver phone calls. As a result, they are ubiquitous surveillance devices beyond the wildest dreams of Cold War East Germany.