The Growing Threat Of Corporate Surveillance

1676 words - 7 pages

In 1948, George Orwell wrote about a society in which individual privacy was nonexistent. In this society, which he imagined would become a reality in the 1980s, surveillance was foremost. Everything one did was under surveillance by “Big Brother”, an unseen figure who was always watching you. Surveillance in this society was imposed and malicious. Although this type of society has never fully become a reality in the Western world, changes in technology and media are indirectly bringing this imagined society, one of complete surveillance, to life. With the rise in corporate business and commercialism, surveillance in society increasing; however, new media has brought about a significant shift in its use. In the 20th century, surveillance was primarily used for “protective measures”, as Orwell had imagined. In the 21st century, there has been a rise in its use for commercialism. This essay will critically analyze the developments in new media that have contributed to this shift, as well as explain the reason for the ubiquitous nature of surveillance in today’s western society. To aid with this analysis, surveillance will hereby be defined as a “focused, systematic, and routine attention to personal details for purposes of influence, management, protection or direction” (Lyon 2007:14).
Surveillance has been embedded in our society since the beginning of modern civilization; new media has just enabled society to use surveillance for a different purpose. Surveillance is not new to our society. The concept of God, a supernatural being carefully monitoring our every action, shows the incorporation of the idea of surveillance into early society. Surveillance was essential for the production and distribution of goods - to ensure that workers were accomplishing their tasks, products were made according to specifications, and consumers received their goods. All aspects of industrialization were closely monitored - to ensure that everything was done effectively and efficiently. With the increase in technology during the 20th century, surveillance was used mostly by government to “protect” by spying on individuals or organizations that they deemed as detrimental to their society. What must be noted, in the aforementioned scenarios, is that surveillance was imposed and often explicit. With the development of new media, such as computers and networks, surveillance is still prominent; although, its use is now mainly for consumerism.
Corporate giants have exploited the developments in new media in the past decade to further their commercialism. In increasing their profits and bettering their businesses, surveillance has become key. One of the underlying ideas to creating and maintaining a successful business is customer satisfaction. In order to ensure the satisfaction of customers, corporate bodies try to key in to the mind of the customer and assess demographics (who their customers are), geo demographics (where their customers are), and psycho...

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