As the summer of pandemic and racial justice protests drew to a close, Naomi Klein hosted a landmark conversation between Shoshana Zuboff, author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” and Simone Browne, author of “Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness.” The three authors discussed how both governments and tech giants are using our moment of overlapping crises to push through discredited surveillance technologies that threaten privacy, democracy, and any hope of equality.
Early in the pandemic, Klein wrote that these forces have aligned to “advance a vision of a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable.” For the privileged, “almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone.”
But, Zuboff warns, “We’re not necessarily locked into this deterministic narrative that too many pundits are hawking and the tech companies are salivating over — that post-Covid-19, we’re going to have comprehensive biosurveillance of all of society. … People are worried. People are asking questions.”
Racial justice movements are also winning major victories against surveillance technologies like facial recognition. And as Browne reminds us, “surveillance is nothing new to Black folks.” In “Dark Matters,” Browne traces modern surveillance practices back to the policing of Black lives under slavery, comparing the branding of slaves to present-day methods of tracking, surveilling, and commodifying people.
In this live conversation, Klein, Zuboff, and Browne unpacked the dangers of surveillance capitalism — and how we can rise to this crisis and create a fair and equitable future.
In partnership with Rutgers University–New Brunswick.