The Biopolitical Public Domain: the Legal Construction of the Surveillance Economy
- 1.2k Downloads
Within the political economy of informational capitalism, commercial surveillance practices are tools for resource extraction. That process requires an enabling legal construct, which this essay identifies and explores. Contemporary practices of personal information processing constitute a new type of public domain—a repository of raw materials that are there for the taking and that are framed as inputs to particular types of productive activity. As a legal construct, the biopolitical public domain shapes practices of appropriation and use of personal information in two complementary and interrelated ways. First, it constitutes personal information as available and potentially valuable: as a pool of materials that may be freely appropriated as inputs to economic production. That framing supports the reorganization of sociotechnical activity in ways directed toward extraction and appropriation. Second, the biopolitical public domain constitutes the personal information harvested within networked information environments as raw. That framing creates the backdrop for culturally situated techniques of knowledge production and for the logic that designates those techniques as sites of legal privilege.
KeywordsSurveillance Informational capitalism Biopolitics Public domain Data Big data Personal information Postcolonialism
My personal thanks go to Mireille Hildebrandt and Frank Pasquale and participants in the Fordham Center on Law & Information Policy faculty workshop, the Georgetown-Maryland Privacy Faculty discussion group, the 2015 Privacy Law Scholars Conference for their helpful comments, and Aislinn Affinito, Peter Gil-Montllor, Alex Moser, and Sean Quinn for research assistance.
- Andrejevic, M. (2007). iSpy: surveillance and power in the interactive era. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
- Andrejevic, M. (2013). Infoglut: how too much information is changing the way we think and know. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Arteaga Botello, N. (2012). Surveillance and urban violence in Latin America. In K. Ball, K. D. Haggerty, & D. Lyon (Eds.), Routledge handbook of surveillance studies (pp. 259–266). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Benkler, Y. (1999). Free as the Air to Common Use: First Amendment Constraints on Enclosure of the Public Domain. New York University Law Review, 74(2), 354–445.Google Scholar
- Benkler, Y. (2006). The wealth of networks: how social production transforms markets and freedom. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Boyd, D., & Crawford, K. (2012). Critical questions for big data: provocations for a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 662–679.Google Scholar
- Boyle, J. (2008). The second enclosure movement and the construction of the public domain. Law and Contemporary Problems, 66(1–2), 33–74.Google Scholar
- Brown, W. (2003). Neo-liberalism and the end of liberal democracy. Theory & Event, 7(1),http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_&_event/.
- Castells, M. (1996). The Rise of the Network Society. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Chen, B. X. & Singer, N. (2015). Verizon wireless to allow complete opt-out of mobile “supercookies”. New York Times Online, Jan. 30, 2015, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/30/verizon-wireless-to-allow-complete-opt-out-of-mobile-supercookies/?_r=2.
- Cohen, J. E. (2012). Configuring the networked self: law, code, and the play of everyday practice. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J. E. (2013). What privacy is for. Harvard Law Review, 126(7), 1904–1933.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J. E. (2016). The surveillance-innovation complex: the irony of the participatory turn. In D. Barney, G. Coleman, C. Ross, J. Sterne & T. Tembeck (Eds.), The participatory condition in the digital age (pp. 207–226). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Deleuze, G. (1995). Postscript on control societies. In Negotiations 1972–1990 (trans. Martin Joughin). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Dreze, J. (2015). Unique identity dilemma, The Indian Express, Mar. 19, 2015, http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/unique-identity-dilemma/.
- Elmer, G. (2013). IPO 2.0: the Panopticon goes public. Media Tropes, 4(1), 1–16.Google Scholar
- Feller, D. (1984). The public lands in Jacksonian politics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality, vol. 1, an introduction (trans. Robert Hurley). New York: Random House.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1983). Afterword: the subject and power. In H. L. Dreyfus & P. Rabinow (Eds.), Michel Foucault: beyond structuralism and hermeneutics (2nd ed., pp. 208–228). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (2007). Security, territory, population: lectures at the College de France 1977–78 (trans. Graham Burchell). New York: Picador.Google Scholar
- Fourcade, M. & Healy, K. (2016). Seeing like a market. Socio-Economic Review, 14(4), [pages], doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mww033.
- Gandy Jr., O. H. (1993). The panoptic sort: a political economy of personal information. Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
- Gates, P. W. (1996). The Jeffersonian dream: studies in the history of American land policy and development. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
- Gilliom, J. (2001). Overseers of the poor: surveillance, resistance, and the limits of privacy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Gilman, M. E. (2012). The class differential in privacy law. Brooklyn Law Review., 77(4), 1389–1445.Google Scholar
- Gitelman, L. (Ed.). (2013). “Raw data” is an oxymoron. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Greenwald, G., & Hussein, M. (2014). Meet the Muslim-American leaders the FBI and NSA have been spying on. The Intercept, July 9, 2014, https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/09/under-surveillance/.
- Gros, F. (2016). Is there a biopolitical subject? Foucault and the birth of biopolitics. In V. W. Cisney & N. Morar (Eds.), Biopower: Foucault and beyond (pp. 259–273). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2004). Multitude: war and democracy in the age of empire. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Hildebrandt, M., & Rouvroy, A. (Eds.). (2011). Law, human agency and autonomic computing. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Kerr, I., & Earle, J. (2013). Prediction, preemption, presumption: how big data threatens big picture privacy. Stanford Law Review Online, 66(2013), 65–72.Google Scholar
- Litman, J. (1990). The public domain. Emory Law Journal, 39(4), 965–1023.Google Scholar
- Locke, J. (1947). Two treatises on government. In T. I. Cook (ed.). New York: Hafner Publishing Co.Google Scholar
- Manning, R. D. (2000). Credit card nation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Marx, Karl. 1996. Critique of the Gotha program. In Terrell Carver (Ed. & Trans.), Marx: later political writings (pp. 208–226). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- May, T., & McWhorter, L. (2016). Who’s being disciplined now? Operations of power in a neoliberal world. In V. W. Cisney & N. Morar (Eds.), Biopower: Foucault and beyond (pp. 245–258). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- McCoy, A. (2009). Policing America’s empire: the United States, the Philippines, and the rise of the surveillance state. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
- Mills, C. (2016). Biopolitics and the concept of life. In V. W. Cisney & N. Morar (Eds.), Biopower: Foucault and beyond (pp. 82–101). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Monahan, T. (Ed.). (2006). Surveillance and security: technological politics and power in everyday life. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Nail, T. (2016). Biopower and control. In N. Morar, T. Nail, & D. W. Smith (Eds.), Between Deleuze and Foucault (pp. 247–263). Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press.Google Scholar
- Pasquale, F. (2015). The black box society: the secret algorithms that control money and information. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Pew Research Center. (2015). The smartphone difference. April 2015, http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015.
- Polanyi, K. (1957). The great transformation: the political and economic origins of our time. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
- Polk, T. (2010). Handheld device helps soldiers detect the enemy, Jan. 14, 2010; http://www.army.mil/mobile/article/?p=32913.
- Pollan, M. (2007). The omnivore’s dilemma: a natural history of four meals. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Punj, S. (2012). A number of changes. Business Today. Mar. 4, 2012, http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/uid-project-nandan-nilekani-future-unique-identification/1/22288.html.
- Seffers, G. I. (2010). U.S. Defense Department expands biometrics technologies, information sharing. SIGNAL Magazine, Oct 2010, http://www.afcea.org/content/?q=us-defense-department-expands-biometrics-technologies-information-sharing.
- Shamas, D. (2013). Where’s the outrage when the FBI targets Muslims? The Nation, Oct. 31, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/wheres-outrage-when-fbi-targets-muslims/.
- Solove, D. J., & Hartzog, W. (2014). The FTC and the new common law of privacy. Columbia Law Review, 114(3), 583–676.Google Scholar
- Taylor, L. (2016). Data subjects or data citizens? Addressing the global regulatory challenge of big data. In M. Hildebrandt & B. van den Berg (Eds.), Freedom and property of information: the philosophy of law meets the philosophy of technology (pp. 81–105). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Tene, O., & Polonetsky, J. (2012). Privacy in the age of big data: a time for big decisions. Stanford Law Review Online, 64(2012), 63.Google Scholar
- Toga, A. W. & Dinov, I. V. (2015). Sharing big biomedical data. Journal of Big Data, 2:7, doi: 10.1186/s40537-015-0016-1.
- Willis, L. E. (2013). When nudges fail: slippery defaults. University of Chicago Law Review, 80(3), 1155–1229.Google Scholar
- Willis, L. E. (2015). Performance-based consumer regulation. University of Chicago Law Review, 82(3), 1309–1409.Google Scholar
- Zarsky, T. (2013). Transparent predictions. University of Illinois Law Review, 2013(4), 1503–1570.Google Scholar
- Zuboff, S. (2016). The secrets of surveillance capitalism. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Mar. 5, 2016, http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/the-digital-debate/shoshana-zuboff-secrets-of-surveillancecapitalism- 14103616.html.