Imagine you have a small computer with you at all times. At your fingertips, you have access to vast amounts of world knowledge in seconds. In fact, you can do almost anything through it, including talk and shop.
Yet scrolling through your Facebook feed has become a replacement for socializing, and ordering online has become the new shopping. The virtual has been replacing the real and we´ve hardly noticed.
Now imagine that this device is also laced with sensors that can track your moods, whereabouts, contacts, and your health.
This is the reality of smartphones and laptops; they are two way mirrors. Not so different from the television in 1984 where the TV watches you watching it, your smartphone, through various apps and websites, is collecting every word you type in private texts and Google searches. It is accessing your cameras and microphone and assessing your mood and reactions to various stimuli. Through your smartphone, third parties collect information on where you go, even when you have your ¨location¨ turned off, what shops and restaruants you go to, what you eat, how often others text you, if you return phone calls, your financial stability, and so on.
After collecting the data, third parties process it through machine learning algorithms, turning it into thousands of data points, and creating in-depth profiles about each individual that can be purchased by potential employers, landlords, lenders, and of course, in a world where corporations and government not only share close ties but where the latter funds the former and their interests become indistinguishable, this data and the conclusions about behaviors, personalities and trends gleaned from it are easily accessed by governments and their corresponding intelligence agencies.
As Shoshana Zuboff documents in her book Surveillance Capitalism, the nascent Internet of Things (think a smart coffee maker that also has a mic and camera, and tracks every time you make coffee; a smart heating system that can also track your movements in your home, etc, all sold to consumers under the guise of technological progress and convenience), which aims to become ubiquitous, where our physical reality is lined with sensors that gather all sorts of data about us and our environment, is the logical extension of the smartphone.
This is the real reason for the US´ banning of Huawei, which is competing with American telecommunications companies for control of 5G networks across the globe. The IoT capabilities enabled by 5G will provide unprecedented, fertile ground for the capture and commodification of data.
Yes, this data is used for marketing on a mass scale, and it is by this logic that companies legitimize its collection; however it is only logical that the same information would be used to track and stifle dissent.
The intelligence community´s relationship with private contractors is extensive, not only for gleaning behavioral data about individuals through companies such as Google. We know about their relationship through leaks by the likes of Edward Snowden and the less well-known case of Jeremy Hammond. Since the early 2000s, private contractors such as Stratfor specifically have specifically targeted activists such as those involved in Occupy, those seeking reparations for environmental disasters, and even monitor PETA activists on behalf of major industry players such as Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola, with the stated intent to influence our behavior.
Our smartphones not only collect data about us. In a world where we spend increasing amounts of our time online, they actively shape our realities. According to these same inputs, based on the behavioral data collected, apps and the Internet can be used to shape your experience, controlling what you see, your search results and your newsfeed based not only on what you want to see, but on what it wants you to see.
In this way our smartphones are so much more than a two-way mirror of 1984. The television is not only watching you watching it; Big Brother is controlling what you watch, changing the channel without you noticing.
1984 has come and passed; our reality is much more sinister.