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The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  8,710 ratings  ·  1,451 reviews
The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called "surveillance capitalism," and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control our behavior.

In this masterwork of original thinking and research, Shoshana Zuboff provides startling insights into the phenomenon that she has named surveil
Hardcover, 691 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by PublicAffairs (first published May 22nd 2018)
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Mark Have you read the LARB piece by Nicholas Carr yet? Checked out her credentials? Here's the link to Carrs review which I found to be informative while …moreHave you read the LARB piece by Nicholas Carr yet? Checked out her credentials? Here's the link to Carrs review which I found to be informative while acknowledging the flaws. I won't state my opinion as I haven't read it (though I have read a couple of Zuboffs papers and listened to a podcast) and more specifically, and we probably have enough expressions of opinion posted as reviews when it is little more than a superficial psychological judgement - the most obvious being the blanket judgement of "conspiracy theory" when this subject is discussed, which I find to be a red herring. The nature of the phenomenon does not fit the definition of the word "conspiracy," neither does the idea that they have unprecedented power of a sort imply there is conspiracy. These companies are using the same business model and method but they are competing against each other. Jaron Lanier states point blank there is no conspiracy, to throw that in is to frame it in a wrong way with its associated assumptions in the first place and I feel strongly that should be cleared up in the beginning.

If anything, there is unconscious cooperation because people simply blindly give their behavior data without even realize they are doing so.

Marija This book can serve as an extension or elaboration of the mechanisms described in the film. However, the book does not focus exclusively on the psycho…moreThis book can serve as an extension or elaboration of the mechanisms described in the film. However, the book does not focus exclusively on the psychological aspects of social media and the compulsive addiction that people have developed in recent years, but rather explores a form of capitalism that has been established through newly developed technologies and the attractive products that use the similar business model.(less)

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I was talking to a friend at work about this book and we agreed it was both very good and very long, perhaps even too long. Sometimes, when you are at a symphony concert, the first movement will end with ‘da – da – da – daaaaaa’ and some people in the audience will clap, something that annoys all of those who know you are only meant to clap right at the end of the piece. Like I said, this book is very long and in three parts – and at the end of the first part I was getting ready to clap and thou ...more
An important, albeit flawed, book. Viewing the rise of Google and Facebook through the lens of sociology, this makes for some heavy reading as one swims among the book's unique vocabulary ("the will to will," "division of learning in society," "double movement," "shadow text," "extraction imperative," "prediction imperative"). Eventually the phrases begin to make their own sort of strange sense, but it definitely feels foreign. Perhaps I haven't read much sociology, so this failing may be my own ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
I’m giving this book 2 stars, in hopes that the surveillance capitalists at Amazon will not recommend others like it to me.

In terms of research, this book deserves a higher rating. It is incredibly thorough and well sourced. But here is an example of a sentence the author, Shoshanna Zuboff, uses: “This time, we have sent them into the raw heart of a rogue capitalism that amassed its fortune and power through behavioral dispossession parlayed into behavior modification in the service of others’
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Paints a frightening portrait of the rise of mass surveillance since the start of the Information Age. In ornate, often opaque, prose Zuboff charts the development of a new form of global capitalism that aims to surveil all facets of human existence and, using vast stores of privately held, ruthlessly gathered data, predict and modify user behavior to align with desired commercial outcomes.
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This will be a long review, so let me summarise it with tweet-like succinctness: ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ is Black Mirror for people who hate fun. I definitely mean that as a compliment. It synthesises and analyses a wide range of ideas I’ve come across in leisure and work reading during the past few years, mostly in articles online. As fragments, those ideas filled me with concern and confusion. Combined into the clear and systematic structure of a book, they fill me with dread, but ...more
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
THIS is the book I have been waiting to read on the new internet era. It's a mix of Neil Postman, Marshall Mcluhan, and Huxely. If I have one complaint, it's that she gets super carried away with metaphors and flowery language--it was actually quite annoying. But Zuboff takes a long view of history and situates the new era of surveillance capitalism within parallel trends in markets, culture, and law. She makes some brilliant observations--her comparison of surveillance capitalism with totalitar ...more
Jan 13, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Sweeping and interesting, but also repetitive and alarmist. Definitely thought provoking but more concrete examples and less comparisons to totalitarianism would have aided my appreciation of this book
Assistance and personalization being the poetry of being able to sell more to you.

First of all, definitely check the privacy settings tab on social media and Google (as I did, so kudos for spurring the reader into action) and you’ll be shocked! Facebook in my example received information from 469 e
Emily B
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data’

This was definitely an informing and illuminating and yet unsettling read. I feel everyone could benefit from reading this thought provoking book. However It was also a very long read and I feel it could have been condensed somewhat.
Laura Noggle
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.”

I can't stop thinking about, or recommending this book enough. Awareness is the first line of defense.

"Consider that the internet has become essential for social participation, that the internet is now saturated with commerc
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
A few years ago I read Yuval Noah Harari's book Homo Deus, a whimsical look at our looming technological dystopia. Harari's book struck me as being happily resigned to the end of human freedom and indeed the end of humanity as we know it. This book could be described as the pessimistic and despairing counterpart to Harari's work. It goes over many of the same themes: the predictive power of Big Data, the loss of human freedom and the intrusion of surveillance technology into every corner of our ...more
Gary Barnes
Ms Zuboff has a number of outstanding points to make in this weighty tome. Unfortunately she seems to have attempted to do it in Klingon. A 250 page book without the repetitive, dense, unnecessarily high-flown prose would have been perfectly okay. Now this book will go down as a laborious, soul destroying pile of paper. 5 stars for the content, deduct three stars for the writing style.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
The reviews of this book were very positive and the blurb suggested it was just the book I was looking to read. "...as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every sector of the global economy, she brings its consequences to life".

Unfortunately she doesn't. Over almost 700 pages (including 140 pages of footnotes to highlight the amount of research that has gone into this book) we do not get to see the consequences of living with the always on devices in our homes, on our wrist
[O]ur lives are scraped and sold to fund their freedom and our subjugation, their knowledge and our ignorance about what they know.

This is the kind of outrage that could be expected from a Berkeley or NYU sociology department, but seeing this from a Professor Emeritus of the Harvard Business School raises attention. Zuboff refers to "overthrow", the end of democracy as we know it, the reshaping of all human nature. She turns to a metaphor of the Taino before meeting Columbus, as they were wholly
Alex Orr
Jun 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is so poorly written, so horrendously edited (was it edited?), and so stupefyingly redundant that it's really hard to adequately capture in words. You really have to slog through it yourself to understand the depths of its faults. So, let me save you the frustration. The author basically is saying that the aim of much of our current cutting edge technology is to gather as much data about us as possible through everything from smart homes, smart cars, and (obviously) social media in order to ...more
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I began reading The Age of Surveillance on the premise of learning a little more about the influence of social networks and the deleterious impact they have on the modern human psyche. Instead, Shoshana Zuboff opened a much broader chapter of analysis in which she managed to follow the etymology of growth through a few hypotheses and instead traced the evolution of capitalism. This work comes as an academic umbrella to many particular questions regarding our digital lives, among which social net ...more
Mar 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: good-non-fiction
Data privacy or unauthorised (and wrongly allowed) usage of an individual’s private data by someone else are critically important topics. However, this comprehensively one-sided book does not even scratch the surface of the issues at hand.

The whole book is a repeated polemic on almost any data gathering, analytics and companies that have successful businesses running on them. The highly coloured and simplistic view of the evils of Google and Facebook (it is largely about these two and a bit abou
Graeme Newell
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: overdrive
I found the topic of this book really fascinating. I’m so anxious to better understand how the tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook gather and use the vast amounts of data they collect.

Unfortunately this book was a swing and a miss. The author is so passionately obsessed with vilifying these companies that the book regressed to a 700+ page vendetta. It’s obvious she did some amazing research but the portent of doom that pervades this book just got too annoying. Okay, I get it. These com
Bryan Alexander
We read this for our online book club in the spring and summer of 2019.

Here are our discussions by chapter: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18.

My concluding thoughts?

Generally Zuboff succeeds in sketching out a dystopian business model, one predicated on turning the details of our lives into corporate profit.  This is most famously or notoriously demonstrated by Facebook and Google.  The structures and strategies Surveillance Capitalism lays out are very useful too
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Who knows? Who decides? Who decides who decides?

I remember thinking a few years back, when Siri was introduced to Apple iPhones, “why exactly do we need this?”. Had it really become such an inconvenience to type a few words into our ubiquitous phones to get information? Who was clamoring for this?
Today Siri seems almost quaint. We’ve moved at the speed of light to voice recognition finding a restaurant for us to “smart homes” that play our music, regulate temperatures, adjust our mattresses,
George Anders
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it
In The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshanna Zuboff argues relentlessly that the rise of Google, Facebook, etc. has done something terribly wrong to society. She's alarmed by all the surreptitious information-gathering that goes on in the background. She's especially troubled by the way we're deluged with personalized ads, every time we go on the Internet. And she wants us to be alarmed, too.

Her book touches on some fascinating questions. Do we want a world that cherishes sanctuary, or that
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lots of mixed feelings here, but I still highly, highly recommend reading this.

Zuboff lays out the mechanics of surveillance capitalism clearly and eloquently. I understand this market form magnitudes better than I did before reading her book. Her ability to identify new phenomena and coin terms for them is incredibly useful. In particular, I found her development of a theory of instrumentariam power to be paradigm-shifting.

My frustration comes with her prognosis. She emphasizes repeatedly that
Chris Chapman
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: zz-yr-2020
When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one. It seems like surrendering a part of them. You know how I love secrecy. It is the only thing that can make modern life wonderful or mysterious to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it.
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

This is a book of extraordinary erudition and intelligence. She identifies the problem but also, where it is all leading, and why we are blithely going along with it. Arendt, Kafka, Rousseau
May 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
The unnecessarily ornate writing style makes the content harder to comprehend and retain.
Rick Wilson
Apr 07, 2022 rated it really liked it
What an interesting book. I feel like I’m going to be mentally chewing on this one for a while. It’s good, with the caveat that I actually don’t agree with the conclusions the author has. This is kind of like reading the most compelling case against betamax circa early 1990‘s. The arguments are well-made and very convincing, but I can’t help but feel it’s a warning from a snapshot of the pre-pandemic world that doesn’t exist anymore.

The author points at the rise of big data and advent of artifi
Keith Swenson
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is not your grand-father's internet any more. What we are living through is a brand new kind of technology, and a brand new kind of business built on and for that. It astoundingly hard to grasp the nature of a paradigm shift while it is happening. Shoshanna Zuboff puts it all together into a single book: the history, the discovery, the development, from the Google taking the responsibility to find the right place to put the ad, to predicting behavior from digital exhaust, to the surprising te ...more
Sasha Mircov
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a very welcome and overdue attempt to provide a theory and critique of the information economy. Professor Soshana Zuboff does a great job of the former but the absolute and inescapable apocalypse her theory predicts is unconvincing.

The two main concepts in Zuboff’s book are “surveillance capitalism” and “instrumentarian power” or, in less charged terms, the information economy and knowledge as power.

In the spirit of some of the most prominent social theori
Matthew Sun
Jun 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
It took me so long to get through this book but here we finally are! I'm honestly still considering how much of Zuboff's central thesis I agree with, but I appreciate how expansive her arguments were & the wide variety of evidence used to substantiate her claims. Some thoughts (not a comprehensive review, just the first few things that are top of mind now upon finishing it):
- As others have probably stated, the book is far too long. To be fair, I think Zuboff was not aiming for brevity, but rath
Dec 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Not going to finish. Moments of brilliance, but also weighed down by academic jargon and overstating phenomenon for sake of thesis.
Hannah Cook
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book as the subject is fascinating and horrifying and right up my alley. However it has a few things about it that i don't love. As I read it I was thinking man this is like someone's Phd thesis (ie impenetrable and a lot of "as we saw in chapter 1 blah blah" and "we will see in chapter 2 blah blah" - it's like, if you didn't do that every constantly the book would be half as long). And then I checked out the author and she is a Harvard academic. So that it explains ...more
Maru Kun
Jan 17, 2019 marked it as to-read
A nice quote on Facebook's business model from an article on this book in the NYT, O.K., Google: How Much Money Have I Made for You Today? - "...it’s all fun and games until the host of “The Apprentice” becomes president..." ...more
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Shoshana Zuboff is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor emerita, Harvard Business School. She is the author of In The Age of the Smart Machine: the Future of Work and Power and The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and her BA from the University of Chicago.

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Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
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“The real psychological truth is this: If you’ve got nothing to hide, you are nothing.” 16 likes
“Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data.” 11 likes
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