Social Media Surveillance: Who is Doing It? David Lyon at TEDxQueensU

Social Media Surveillance: Who is Doing It? David Lyon at TEDxQueensU



today I want to talk with you about surveillance on social media who does it now something that has been overtaking us really something that was just a few years ago a novelty is now something that we take for granted it's all around us we can't evade it even if we want to most people embrace it now I've been thinking about questions of surveillance for more than 20 years now so what interests me is the questions about what is happening to that personal information that flows through and sometimes floods the internet using social media so I want to ask the question then is it them watching us now for some people it seems to me that although there is an in estable inestimable amount of personal data floating around in the internet few people seem to realize just how accessible it is what is out there to be harvested Bessie exede school T an altered yeah in Sector doubly sweet sixteen okay your pity gamba yeah glimmers souvenir Slovenia tonight in moto Khurana bathrobe seen it we yeah yep something didn't you didn't leave the slave DVD that's right they start over the debate any filming sir it's my space here miss Ahuja bath cool CEO Tixier trans axis why can't he regnum at home but then they get to it start well I got teef of your bank reckoning yeah he's even last month you spent 200 euros on alcohol for a month the unit arrow and cleaving is believed oh yes fooling her that's fine aggregate from so Jeff nice does dude without my wick in GST yeah yes yeah my god I have seen you in so there's just a warning ad from a Belgian bank that just tells you about some of the financial stuff now what are we thinking about here when we talk about social media we're talking about the world in which it is said we are dealing with user-generated content so that sounds like we are all doing it well what do you think Mark Zuckerberg is doing it for what the media platforms the companies are doing is they are trading in personal information that is where they get their profit that's what they are there for and so we have to put that user-generated content next to what they are actually doing and what they're trying to do of course well they're doing surveillance they are using those personal data in order to try to influence us as consumers in order to try to shape our self-identity in order to help us to engage in the world in particular ways so that's what they are all about and so it's not surprising that schools and employers police department security companies other government departments they are all also very interested in the world of social media personal data take employers for example it is sobering to realize that an increasing number of employers use social media in addition to the conventional resume perhaps I should say it should be sobering you realize that 76% of the photos on Facebook in Britain show users in an inebriated state so you may wonder what is going on when you think about how other people are using those data that we put up there some employees some employers for example are now asking applicants if they can have their Facebook passwords so that they can see for themselves so much for your privacy settings social media is driven by what you what you might call a market logic and the market logic is they're trying to create categories trying to make profiles of us trying to find out what they can so they can put together a composite picture of who we are but of course Facebook was a gift for that and other social media too because instead of them having to dream up the categories we contribute to those categories and to the categorization so every time that we post some image every time that we make a post online we are contributing something about our tastes our preferences what our musical tastes are what our sporting tastes are they are interested of course in the things that we eat so food preferences in political affiliations and religious commitments you name it the process of making those categories is something to which we contribute we are helping them and of course it's the categories that give the clues we don't we can have our privacy settings really high but anybody who is trolling through those data and trying to find out about us can make a composite picture of us from the preferences and tastes and habits of our friends so on Facebook you see your friends betray you however those categories don't necessarily fit how we might want to see ourselves so our visibility to the world to those organizations to those corporations and so on our visibility may not be the way that we would want necessarily to present ourselves the techno logic behind it may be somewhat misleading but that's only the beginning I was asking the question then well is it them surveilling us and I want to go beyond that and suggest that there's something more going on I want to suggest that today we are also doing the surveillance social media of course is all about sharing about connecting with others about keeping in touch with our friends and maybe also finding out a little bit about our friends indeed the vision critical polling company in Canada along with the surveillance Study Center at Queen's University did a little survey of a thousand Canadians thousand Americans thousand Brits in the summer of 2012 and found this that more than a third of respondents in all three countries admitted to doing what they called tracking and monitoring others online well we thought that could just be a leading question 30 percent seems rather high and so we asked other questions as well we asked for example how the people who did this thought that those whom they were watching without their knowledge would feel about it more than half in each case said that the persons would be embarrassed or unhappy if they knew that they were being tracked and monitored in that way so there's something different going on here we don't want to just talk about the corporation's and police departments that want to know about us and from my vantage point I would say that we are seeing here an element in an emerging surveillance culture an emerging culture of surveillance and by this I mean something that goes beyond the Orwellian surveillance state something that goes beyond the so called surveillance society where consumer surveillance becomes dominant and actually government departments police department security agencies get their clues from what corporations are doing in a consumer sphere it goes beyond that what I want to suggest is that this consumer culture is one that is not just out there not just that we participate in every time we put up our posts our images or information it's also something that is inside us for better or worse we do surveillance as well now of course social media is all sorts of positive things it is participate read it is engaging to the point of addiction for some it is participate or it is something that is that may be empowering it is something that for many of us is fun so that on the one hand I'm not saying either that it is somehow merely negative surveillance is always ambiguous and in this case too we see and hear about many stories where people have been struck down by some illness or accident and they have found a wonderful community of support online you can read dozens of stories like that on the internet and within social media so it may be a place for real social support and encouragement for others so I'm not denying that for a moment I'm not suggesting either that because of what I'm saying about surveillance somehow we should pull out of using social media or the Internet actually it's not really possible in the world today it's too late but it's also too late in the sense that our online and offline lives as we used to think about them have bled into each other so much that we really have to think of there being a digital dimension to our human lives now and therefore we have to go beyond that online offline distinction that we used to make and of course we see that because lives are touched in profound ways if you think about those dramatic and tragic cases of cyberbullying for example or if you think of the pain of a broken relationship that was discovered through a status update lives are really touched the online offline distinction doesn't really mean a lot today so I think we have to ask some new questions some quite different different questions not just the questions that we might ask about valence in general who's watching what do they know how do they find out how much information do they have what are we doing with it what are the consequences of that information all good questions to ask but we've gone beyond that kind of Kafka esque question that's still there it's still important but we've gone beyond it those people who say that they track and monitor others online well that's what they do and they say on the one hand the same people will say they oppose monitoring of their lives and profiling by corporations but there are people who are also doing that tracking and monitoring online this is why I think we need to ask some new questions that which emerges that surveillance which emerges in a context that we think of as fun enjoyable participatory may not be fun may not be harmless for all those who are involved but not only that if we're doing count surveillance in a context where fun is the dominant motif then that could serve to naturalize to domesticate to make it seem normal to engage in surveillance when as I say it's ambiguous there many context within which surveillance may be far from harmless so here's the challenge before us then we have to think in new ways imagine in fresh ways our personal information think about it differently not just my privacy and how can I get those privacy settings higher how can I really give them teeth make them work it's beyond my privacy we need to learn to manage our visibility and the visibility of others within this world in which the online/offline have bled into each other and I think there are two ways in particular that we could think about this one has to do with what I was saying first of all about the categorization by corporations police and so on using social media and that is that we need to seek new kinds of information policies ones that go far beyond a mere concern with privacy important though that maybe we need to think of information policies that relate to the kind of social sorting that I was talking about that is done through those categories we need to find new ways of pressing for accountability within those organizations that process personal data from day to day and we need to do it much more sensitively and carefully but also much more urgently otherwise we will lose not only our privacy but freedom itself and fairness we lose freedom in so many ways for example if you have photographs taken of you while you're at a legal political protest then what happens to those photos some people don't even engage in legal political protest anymore because they fear what might happen to the photos that are harvested governments in many countries around the world have also in recent years been trying to tap into the kinds of information that Internet service providers maintain and they have been trying to get police access to those kinds of information without a court warrant it's happened and is happening here in Canada our freedoms are at stake we need some new kinds of policies new kinds of ways of approaching these issues in terms of fairness what about those who are rewarded what about those who get the get the discounts what about those who get benefits from the customer relationships that they develop through social media have we ever thought about the fact that there are other people who do not get discounts who do not get rewards they are systematically excluded from well in fact from being customers the companies have a name for it it's called D marketing fairness is right there in the picture too so I think we need to create new codes for here with personal information we need to think of new ways of considering what it is that we're doing when we go online and we need to go beyond the negative and the protective we need to go beyond my privacy we need to go beyond the harms that may be done those are all important but we need also to go beyond them we need to imagine beyond the narrow limits of the technical and the commercial we need to think about not just that but the good of the other the good of the other it seems to me should be paramount sure we can look after our own visibility manage our own visibility but surely we could also think about the visibility of others other people are piqued by our post other people are touched by our tweets I have a neighbor and Deb says this to her teenage daughter she says if you can't say it to her face then don't say it online you know in the both in the corporate world that I'm talking about and in all our individual lives there may be points at which the appropriate response to surveillance is don't do it but for most of us most of the time there are other ways of thinking about this and I want to suggest that we can be pioneers in this the call to be our sisters or our brother's keeper now has to go digital we have to think with in the way that my friend Eric stone art says he says that we should ask whether it's surveillance of others or surveillance for others and I want to leave you with that question when we think about surveillance on social media then are we thinking about surveillance that is going to foster human flourishing thank you very much you you

4 thoughts on “Social Media Surveillance: Who is Doing It? David Lyon at TEDxQueensU

  1. I just want to mention a couple more ideas. Part of the reason we are concerned that we might lose our privacy is the fear that our mistakes will be taken out of context. If there is no privacy though, it will actually be very difficult to do that since the whole context will be available publicly. It would actually be difficult to steal someone's identity if everyone can see you doing it.

    I think the problem of lack of privacy might only be when it's not universal.

  2. The future of privacy appears to be threatened, but I've been wondering, if we get to a point where no one has any privacy what would happen. We would be more cautious about stalking others if they knew we were doing it. We would be so aware of everyone's mistakes that we would no longer be bothered by the notion that we are imperfect since everyone's imperfections would be apparent. There would be so much information that people would simply stop caring that so and so made a mistake.

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