In June we met to investigate “surveillance capitalism” i.e. How do big companies make money off our data?

Data collection and analysis is not new. It has long been practiced by banks, insurers, finance, and many other industries. But with the advent of increasingly complex networked tools and social platforms, data mining—and its conversion into profits—has ramped up significantly. What effects does this have on society? What will this landscape look like in the future? And how might we on the left put this technology to better use?

We were joined by two speakers to help us sort this out: Ingrid Burrington and Rob Horning.


  1. The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism: Google as a Fortune Teller. A long piece, but the best at defining what exactly we’re talking about, by Shoshana Zuboff, who coined the term “surveillance capitalism.”

  2. The Data Is Ours! Our friend, tech journalist and DSA-member Ben Tarnoff, extending the metaphor of “data-as-oil” to examine possible forms of regulation.

  3. Bonus content:

Discussion Questions

  1. What is surveillance capitalism?

  2. Where is data being collected? How?

  3. How is this surveillance being turned into profits now? How might that change in the future?

  4. How can we implement public, democratic control over corporate/government data systems?

  5. What might the public hope to gain?