Privacy and freedom
in times of
surveillance capitalism

Esther Crabbendam • @bitsoffreedom • 23 mei 2019

Before we start..

Who in this room does not have a Facebook-account?

And is there someone without a Google-account?

Who is still on Twitter?

And who has an Instagram-account?

Finally: who used Google Maps to find this location?


(the right to silence)

Freedom of communication

(the right to speak)

On the internet

Lobbying, research, campaigning, litigation and empowerment

Chapter 1 of 4

≠ neutral

Technology as an
extension of man

E.g. clothes as an extension of the skin or
the car as an extension of our foot

Figure and ground



Social media?

What about Facebook, Google or LinkedIn?

Chapter 2 of 4

Intermediation &
surveillance capitalism

Our interactions are technologically intermediated

Between me and you sits Facebook or Gmail

Between you and Black Mirror sits Netflix

Between you and The Hand Maid's Tale sits Amazon

Between Amazon and you sits VISA

The model is simple...


Virtual third party


What does that mean?

Surveillance comes for free

Close your eyes...

Go through your Google searches for the past month

What type of information does Google know about you?

More than 50% of all e-mail in the world starts or ends at Google

YouTube, Google analytics, Google drive

It also comes with influence over the experience

(Potentially even with manipulation)

For a lot of you, Google even decided which route you took coming here

And even that is not neutral...

It is an explicit strategy of these companies

With your information as the new capital

Chapter 3 of 4

Surveillance Capitalism

A short course:

How do I become a surveillance capitalist?

Step 1

Collect as many data as possible

Step 1

Collect as many data as possible

Step 2

Use machine learning and datascientists to build a model that can predict behaviour

Step 3

Sell your predictions on "prediction markets"

The most important "prediction market" right now is the advertisement market

That is why the web right now has become one big tracking machine

How many files do you think my computer started downloading?

183 files, 7.08 MB,
> 9 minutes (!)

If you can predict behaviour, you can create it

Step 4 (if you are "evil")

Manipulate people so you get the behaviour you want

Think Trump or Brexit


It limits our freedom in the sence of independence

In the end, it's all about the question: are we living or are we being lived?

Chapter 4 of 4

What can we do?

We have to organize anti-power against dominant powers

"We may compensate for imbalances by giving the powerless protection against the resources of the powerful, by regulating the use that the powerful make of their resources, and by giving the powerless new, empowering resources of their own. We may consider the introduction of protective, regulatory, and empowering institutions." — Philip Pettit

So that should be
our agenda...

1. Protection

Data protection and encryption

Algemene Verordening Gegevensbescherming (AVG)

2. Regulation

Antitrust with data as criteria

3. Empowerment

Free software en decentral technology

Do you want to help
with this agenda?

Thank you for your attention!

Become a supporter!