The cycle of surveillance capitalism

How modern scandals go round in circles

  • Growing Market
  • The Civilian Perspective
  • The Circle of Data
  • The Circle of Oil
  • The Circle of Speculation
Growing Market
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In March 2018, 29-year-old data consultant Christopher Wylie blew the whistle on a scandal that would change how we think about data forever. Wylie revealed that his former employer, the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, had secretly harvested data from millions of Facebook users with Facebook’s consent, using it to manipulate voters in the American presidential election in 2016. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came too late.

Every controversy follows a similar cycle. The media celebrates a company. There’s early critique from experts. Then: breaking news

When it comes to modern industries, it seems that disaster has to strike first before politicians, lawyers, and policy makers are are truly willing to act. By examining the timelines of other crucial incidents from other controversial industries, their reluctance to regulate becomes even more noticeable.

Every controversy follows a similar cycle. News headlines cover a company’s milestones. There’s early critique from insider experts. Then: breaking news. A scandal. A senate hearing featuring a very nervous business leader. A few years later, a “What went wrong?” documentary. Repeat. It’s always the same.

What can we, as policy makers and as citizens, change in our strategy to prevent the market from creating new disasters?

The timeline of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal is not yet fully complete, but by looking at recent announcements (such as Mark Zuckerberg’s March 2019 statement about his “Privacy-Focused Vision” for Facebook) and developments (such as Facebook’s new VR headset, Quest), we can see how the cycle might begin again. What can we expect from Facebook in the future? And what can we, as policy makers, and as citizens, change in our strategy to prevent the market from creating new disasters?

in collaboration with SETUP and Rathenau Instituut. Funded by Creative Industries Fund NL

Roos Groothuizen

Roos Groothuizen

Roos Groothuizen is an artist and designer who cares about digital rights. Fascinated with the unfair distribution of information and how online algorithms systematically discriminate us, her work reflects on in-depth research and recent developments, often with interactive or game-like elements.

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