The Atlantic on “The Rise of ‘Luxury Surveillance’”

The Atlantic writes about ambient intelligence and smart home products as ‘Luxury Surveillance’:

“This intense devotion to tracking and quantifying all aspects of our waking and non-waking hours is nothing new—see the Apple Watch, the Fitbit, social media writ large, and the smartphone in your pocket—but Amazon has been unusually explicit about its plans. The Everything Store is becoming an Everything Tracker, collecting and leveraging large amounts of personal data related to entertainment, fitness, health, and, it claims, security. It’s surveillance that millions of customers are opting in to.”

But the downside, according to the author, is that the “externally imposed control of the formerly incarcerated becomes the self-imposed control of the individual”, that “these very devices are now leveraged against people by their employers,the government, their neighbors, stalkers, and domestic abusers”, and that this development entails “the normalization of surveillance that consistently targets marginalized communities”.

“These “smart” devices all fall under the umbrella of what the digital-studies scholar David Golumbia and I call “luxury surveillance”—that is, surveillance that people pay for and whose tracking, monitoring, and quantification features are understood by the user as benefits. These gadgets are analogous to the surveillance technologies deployed in Detroit and many other cities across the country in that they are best understood as mechanisms of control: They gather data, which are then used to affect behavior.”

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