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Missing from Privacy Legislation- The Abolishment of Surveillance Capitalism (Predatory & Harmful Surveillance Business Practices)

Missing from Privacy Legislation- The Abolishment of Surveillance Capitalism (Predatory & Harmful Surveillance Business Practices)

By: Rex M. Lee, Security Advisor

Surveillance capitalism is predatory data mining typically via addictive and harmful sites and applications with social validation feedback loops/intermittent variable rewards along with manipulative targeted advertising based on one’s identity and gathered preferences.

Drawing from my experience as a former app/platform developer and advisor to various lawmakers regarding tech congressional hearings, like the case in 2018 involving Facebook Cambridge Analytica and Mark Zuckerberg, which ended in a meaningless resolve, it is evident that privacy legislation has failed to stop the practices of surveillance capitalism.

The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal was based on a data broker, Aleksandr Kogan, who launched surveillance/data mining capabilities within the Facebook ecosystem. This enabled Kogan to conduct surveillance on Facebook users while collecting over 5,000 data points associated with each end user’s personal, business, medical, legal, employment, biometric, and location information. The alarming reality is, that this is how much access and information an intrusive app (“Legal Malware”) enables the developer to collect on the end user.

Kogan then packaged the Facebook user information and sold it to many companies, governments, and entities around the world, including Cambridge Analytica, which developed personalized (targeted) advertising for political candidates.

The case above is one example of why privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA attempt to protect internet end users while online but do not address intrusive apps and social media platforms. Unfortunately, apps like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat enable the developer to surveil and data mine the end user. 

Tech companies such as Meta (Facebook) and ByteDance (TikTok) circumvent privacy laws with predatory terms of service. Once you click on “I Agree”, you agree to give up your privacy, security, safety, and hands-on control of your information to these tech giants. The predatory terms of service you accept when clicking on “I Agree” are a contract of adhesion that only benefits the app, social media, and AI developer.

Privacy laws mean nothing today because until surveillance capitalism is understood and addressed to remove these intrusive apps, addictive and harmful social media platforms, as well as generative AI with predatory terms of service (cyber-enslavement agreements), nothing will change. 

Additionally, protecting digital rights through proper regulation will keep children safe from addictive, harmful, and exploitative social media developers, as well as in general, safeguard online users’ privacy, security, freedom, and safety.

If the government neglects the issue of surveillance capitalism, then we must rely on the market (capitalism and investment) to solve the problem. A great example is the company, Purism, which designs and manufactures hardware that protects users' rights to privacy, security, and freedom. This company prioritizes user privacy, security, and freedom by developing a secure Linux operating system, PureOS, that supports smartphones, tablet PCs, laptop PCs, mini-PCs, and servers manufactured by Purism.


For more information about surveillance capitalism and the importance of privacy regulations, feel free to reach out to Rex M. Lee at rlee@mysmartprivacy.com

Rex M. Lee is a Privacy and Cybersecurity Advisor, Tech Journalist, and Senior Tech/Telecom Industry Analyst for BlackOps Partners, Washington, DC. Find more information at CyberTalkTV.com.

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