We’d like to say thank you to all those who took the time to submit applications for our scholarship. After carefully reviewing all of them, we are pleased to announce the winner of our 2023 scholarship.
Congratulations! Gabriel is attending Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College.
In his essay, Gabriel explains what he believes should be outlawed in the United States, which he has agreed to have published below. We invite you to read it.
Imagine if someone had unrestricted access to your current location, every credit card purchase you have made, and every Google search query you have entered. Using this information, they deduced details about your career, hobbies, and even your family, then proceeded to sell this information. Would this not be an utmost invasion of your privacy and rights? Perhaps a singular person is not doing it, but corporate conglomerates in tech are. Coined by Shoshana Zuboff, Surveillance Capitalism refers to big tech companies monetizing the data of their users through monitoring and collecting all interpretable information from devices. Although currently legal, Surveillance Capitalism is a blatant violation of privacy that should be outlawed in the United States.
In today’s interconnected world, data has become worth more its virtual weight in gold, heavily coveted by advertisers and other entities. Big tech companies are more than willing to sell this data, exploiting vague “informed consent” agreements that often make the device or program unusable if declined. However, these agreements merely disclose the collection of data without explicitly stating it will be made into a marketable good (Andrew & Baker, 2021; Zuboff & Schwandt, 2019). Much like in the Industrial Revolution where the initial lack of labor laws created obscenities of great proportion, the modern Technological Revolution has gone mostly unchecked by regulatory measures. Users not only serve as the factory workers but also the raw material itself, as their generated data is converted into profitable goods. While initially tech companies sold data exclusively to advertisers, the clientele has expanded to any entity interested in virtual behavioral data (Zuboff & Schwandt, 2019). Zuboff predicts that if Surveillance Capitalism continues unimpeded, citizens will forfeit the ability to control their digital lives and Monahan 2 autonomy, in turn ending the conventional right to privacy as society knows it (Zuboff & Schwandt, 2019).
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal of 2018 brought the legality of mass-scale data collection and distribution into the spotlight. Subsequently, government attention towards the issue increased, leading to the passage of the General Data Protection Regulations by the European Union (Marelli & Testa, 2018). Prohibiting the acquisition of consumer data through legislation poses a considerable challenge. Existing laws in the United States emphasize individual privacy but are ill-defined, failing to protect against the commodification of persona data (Andrew & Baker, 2021). Alex Mcdougall, co-founder of venture capital firm Bicameral Ventures asserts that large tech companies operate in a virtual world that is inadequately defined by laws, creating a “fundamental mismatch of privacy and profit” (Mcdougall, 2020). The transformation of our world into a complex, interconnected landscape through modern technology and the internet necessitates equally sophisticated legal frameworks. It is imperative that Surveillance Capitalism be outlawed in the United States to protect citizens from the unauthorized acquisition and monetization of their personal data.
-By Gabriel Monahan