Technology companies have hardwired surveillance, censorship and agenda-shaping capacity into the DNA of their search and networking platforms. With each click, we feed these platforms with more information, but users have very little say in the ways in which our data is used or content is displayed. This power imbalance, however, is not the predestined or path-dependent model technology services must necessarily follow as we progresses into the 21st century.
Many of us are reliant on the digital communication tools and reference platforms that are created by companies. These platforms – some with more users than the population of any country – are controlled by proprietary algorithms, governed through binding Terms of Services (ToS), allow for access to third-party services.
This talk will take stock of six intrusive forces that exploit invasive data collection that I have coined ‘MIMICS’:
- Manipulation (of our feeds and search results)
- Indexing (of our clicks, pageviews and social graphs)
- Monitoring (our content consumption patterns to shape future results)
- Interception (of data via upstream surveillance)
- Censorship (through arbitrarily enforced content moderation policies)
- ‘Siloing’ (which forces users to keep their data within the walled gardens of a single platform)
I argue that a lack of transparency and accountability mechanisms poses a substantial threat to our ability to be self-determinate and exercise individual agency in the digital era. The talk will conclude by demonstrating ways that internet users can adapt their online habits to more fully exercise individual agency.