Note — Apr 18, 2021

Control Creep: when the Data Always Travels, so Do the Harms

Sun-ha Hong, assistant professor of communication at Simon Fraser University, reviews the short history of wearables, the quantified self movement, and how they got sucked into the maw of surveillance capitalism. Starting with Kevin Kelly and friends wanting to track themselves to optimize their lives, then to widgets like Fitbit and the Apple Watch; this collection of data, under cover of being for personal benefit, just becomes part of bigger data, tracking, control creep, loss of agency, and making human workers more compatible with machines. Worse, “when our data is used to empower the gaze of others, this also affects how we see ourselves.” Be sure to consider the conclusion alongside the first article, with the abstraction and transfer of labour and value. Same thing here.

[B]ig data analytics often has “no clearly defined endpoints or values.” It is precisely this capability for new and unexpected use cases that renders big data so attractive for governments and businesses — and pernicious for the rest of us. […]

In a “smart” or “AI-driven” workplace, the productive worker is someone who emits the desired kind of data — and does so in an inhumanly consistent way. […]

For many of us, to appear correctly in databases is the unhappy obligation on which our lives depend.