How to Resist Surveillance Capitalism

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Surveillance capitalism is a truly 21st century innovation which is having a major impact on society. Policies around data protection and privacy aren’t strong enough yet and trade deals don’t rightly aim to protect data privacy either. How our data is used and exploited isn’t up to us and it should be. Large corporations know more about you than you might realize and exploit that knowledge for their own gain- it doesn’t have to be that way.

How to resist collection of your behavioral data?
Solutions for consumers

Educating consumers and helping them make radical choices to influence the systems designed to harvest their data is one of the two important ways that can help us fight this crisis. We know that consumers stated privacy preferences are not reflected by the actions and choices they make, failing to act on recommendations they know would likely benefit them — this is commonly referred to as privacy paradox. I strongly believe this is something we can change together and that process starts with you and me. With the risk of being called a naive idealist, I believe we can lead by example in getting through the pains of giving up some of the convenience and ruthless pursuit of growth, ultimately affecting the course of history that is otherwise headed towards more surveillance, concentration of knowledge and power, and unethical exploitation of the human experience.

Privacy means having the agency to choose what you share, when you share it and who you share it with. The following recommendations can guide you, as an individual towards taking back that control and helping others do the same.

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Yellowknife Twitter Bot Spreads Global Warming Knowledge

Climate change is occurring at a faster pace with every passing year. The rate of change is hard for us to comprehend and think rationally about. An engineer with Ecology North in Yellowknife decided to help us all understand how quickly things are changing by making a twitter bot – @ykclimatewatch that compares temperatures of the past with those of today.

“The more you act on climate, the less likely you are going to be anxious about it,” said Gagnon.
His solution was to create bot that compares each day’s temperature to average temperatures in the community on that date, so people can see the trend for themselves.

Ecology North’s YK Climate Watch Twitter bot is still in its infancy. Its official tweets started in January.
The bot automatically calculates the mean, or average, temperature of the day between 1971 and 2000. It then compares the historical average — or the “climate normal” which is the three-decade averages — to the average temperature of the day on Environment Canada.

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Piracy is Good for Companies

Copyright holders of multi-million dollar franchises decry piracy and proclaim it to be a threat to their business. The reality is different. Piracy can spur competition and keep prices lower as a result. Additionally, the amount of piracy isn’t as high as large mega-corporations will have you believe. Meaning that the concerns around piracy are overblown and that piracy is counter intuitively good for the economy.

“When information goods are sold to consumers via a retailer, in certain situations, a moderate level of piracy seems to have a surprisingly positive impact on the profits of the manufacturer and the retailer while, at the same time, enhancing consumer welfare,” wrote Antino Kim, assistant professor of operations and decision technologies at Kelley, and his co-authors.

“Such a win-win-win situation is not only good for the supply chain but is also beneficial for the overall economy.”

While not condoning piracy, Kim and his colleagues were surprised to find that it can actually reduce, or completely eliminate at times, the adverse effect of double marginalization, an economic concept where both manufacturers and retailers in the same supply chain add to the price of a product, passing these markups along to consumers.

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30 Minutes of FOMO a Day

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We’ve heard that spending too much time on social media is detrimental to our mental health, and every year more evidence confirms that. Simply put, too much time Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. makes us feel bad. But how much time is too much time? It seems that 30 minutes is more than enough time. For a healthy life limit yourself to less than 30 minutes a day to social media.

Introduction: Given the breadth of correlational research linking social media use to worse well-being, we undertook an experimental study to investigate the potential causal role that social media plays in this relationship. Method: After a week of baseline monitoring, 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania were randomly assigned to either limit Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat use to 10 minutes, per platform, per day, or to use social media as usual for three weeks. Results: The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.

Discussion: Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.

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Saving Animals Through Mass Surveillance

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Readers of this site know that I don’t like mass surveillance of human beings; however, the technology behind the tools used for intrusive observations of our private lives can be used to help animals. Henri Weimerskirch, a French ecologist, is using tons of little sensors on birds to monitor both birds and what they eat (fish). Right now we use human observation, satellites imagery, and radios to track animals. What Weimerskirch is doing now is to use mass data collection a la mass surveillance to monitor the well being of birds and fish.

The bird spies join an arsenal of technologies being used and developed around the world to catch illegal and unregistered fishing boats. The main tool right now is satellite surveillance, which has provided important big-picture data. But it relies on ships having signaling systems on board—which many unregistered vessels don’t, and which can be easily switched off to provide cover for illegal activity. The information is also relatively low-resolution and only updated every few hours.


This fall, as Weimerskirch’s birds begin patrolling the Indian Ocean, the waters around the Republic of Seychelles will come under new scrutiny. The government is partnering with FishGuard, a project developed by the drone company ATLAN Space and the nonprofit GRID-Arendal. The coast guard will control drones for two modes of operation: targeted missions and surveillance. In targeted use, the coast guard will send them to check out a suspicious boat that’s been previously identified. In surveillance mode, the drones will patrol a set area, and their artificial intelligence system will identify and report boats that match a registry of unregistered and illegal vessels.

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