Surveillance in the Big Data Era
This year’s theme is Surveillance in the Big Data Era. Big Data practices mean that personal data are no longer collected for certain limited, specific and transparent purposes. Rather, Big Data jumps ahead, obtaining bulk data before determining their actual and potential uses and mobilizing algorithms and analytics to predict and intervene before behaviours, events and processes are set in train. Preemptive approaches are a bureaucratic incentive to over-collect data in security and law enforcement. At the same time, promises abound that real-time data analytics will transform aspects of retail, manufacturing, health care and public sector organizations. Some promises may be fulfilled, but what will this mean for democratic freedoms, privacy and the role of information in contemporary life? Bruce Schneier has also suggested that ‘Big Data’ be considered like ‘Big Oil’ or ‘Big Pharma’ – as a political economic category, a key part of what Shoshana Zuboff is calling ‘surveillance capitalism.’ Together, Big Data and Surveillance are transforming our personal, social, cultural, political, economic and ecological worlds, and there is an urgent need for this to be addressed in every sphere and at every level.