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19 June Subscribe
Tech news with a HAT perspective 
Issue 111
Orwell comes
Two weeks ago the Guardian's review of a book by Shoshana Zuboff called out the era of our time. Welcome to Surveillance Capitalism.
Zuboff, writes Prof. John Naughton in the article, changed our perspective on automation back in 1988 and has since incubated this much more ambitious description of the effects of digitisation and networking. She was one of the first female Harvard Business School professors to hold an endowed chair, and is now painting the picture of our lens through which to view Google, Facebook, et al - that of their spawning an entire new variant of capitalism.
"“Surveillance capitalism,” she writes, “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvement, the rest are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioural futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behaviour.”

Naughton writes that from this perspective, "the behaviour of the digital giants looks rather different from the roseate hallucinations of Wired magazine" - hallucinations we often popularise in our minute way in this newsletter. "The combination of state surveillance and its capitalist counterpart means that digital technology is separating the citizens in all societies into two groups: the watchers (invisible, unknown and unaccountable) and the watched." It has profound consequences for our democracy. Without regulatory oversight of the private sector, these consequences will be (are?) intolerable.

Prof. Naughton is one of the three professors that host the Wolfson-HAT Symposium on the Digital Person, an event which will return on the 30 April 2019 at Wolfson College, Cambridge. We shall have to see if Prof. Zuboff is available as well.

Yours in HAT,

Leila Trilby, Editor-in-chief

The present

To top it all off, the goods we're getting for all of this surveillance don't even make us happy! A study reported in the Washington Post suggested that temporarily quitting Facebook left people less informed but happier. You're probably not on there at all anymore, I suppose. You probably quit long ago.
Slack is going to IPO (kinda, again) shortly, and a list has been published of all the messaging apps they murdered on their way to the top, which is super metal.

OMf**G (I think I messed that up) ALL OF ALPHABET is propped up by Google's advertising machine. How does it make that much bloody money?

The future

These people are building an alternative to classic credit scoring (and should really have a bunch of HATs).

And these people are hooking together all your financial data (and should really have a bunch of HATs).

The doghouse

How fun is it that it's always Google and Facebook in our doghouse? SO fun. It was revealed this week that both Google AND Facebook have been peddling data collection applications through Apple's backdoor of employee-only applications. To me the best thing about this chicanery - aside from the staggering clarity with which it reveals just how little we actually care about privacy (everything for $20 a month smh 🤦‍♀️) - is that for a while a bunch of Facebook staff had, like, zero tools for navigating their actual jobs while on campus because Apple had unceremoniously shut them all down.

The NY Attorney General in the US has started taking on fake social media activity in the courts. A case was settled with a company bringing in millions for false comments and profiles.
Another "megaleak" containing 2.2 billion password records called Collections #1-5 are being passed around the interwebs.

HAT News

Retail therapy. Another day another Partner. Welcome aboard Metail, leaders in technology and data science for retail and fashion. An exceptional partner, we couldn't be more thrilled.

Oh hai. A welcome also to Joo Hee Oh, a new assistant professor in the HATLAB working on data and digital economy.

That BIT energy tho. Ze'uropeans are funding new energy research learnings on personal data. We're gonna try und help with HATs.


Jonathan Holtby, HAT Community Manager

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