The concept of “surveillance capitalism” – coined by academic Shoshana Zuboff in 2014 – has been the subject of a number of Inforrm posts. For example, “Explainer: what is surveillance capitalism and how does it shape our economy?” – Donell Holloway and “Our “data self” explained. A brief journey into Surveillance Capitalism” – Nataly Tedone.
This concept is now the subject of a song which has been described as “the internet’s new official protest” song – record by trans/genderqueer activist singer/songwriter Evan Greer.
This song features on a new album “Spotify is Surveillance”
Evan Greer has launched a “Spotify Surveillance Campaign” which calls on Spotify to drop their reported plans to use artificial intelligence and voice recognition software. The always-on technology claims to be able to detect, among other things, “emotional state, gender, age, or accent” to better recommend music.
It is said that this technology is a violation of privacy and other human rights, and should be abandoned. Evan Greer has said
The fact that Spotify filed a patent for this type of emotional surveillance and manipulation is beyond chilling. It’s not enough for them to say that they have no plans to use this technology right now, they should publicly commit to never conducting this type of surveillance on music listeners. Surveillance capitalism as a business model is fundamentally incompatible with basic human rights and democracy, regardless of whether it’s being employed by Facebook, Amazon, or Spotify. The song and video highlight the fact that the Internet has the potential to profoundly transform our society for the better, abolishing false scarcity and enabling universal access to human knowledge and creativity, while ensuring marginalized and independent artists and creators are fairly compensated for our labor. But if we allow a small handful of companies to dominate the web and the music industry with a parasitic business model based on surveillance and exploitation, we’re headed for the opposite: a dystopian future where algorithms decide what we see and hear based on profit, rather than artistry.
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