Journal of Information Technology

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 75–89 | Cite as

Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization

  • Shoshana ZuboffEmail author
Research Article


This article describes an emergent logic of accumulation in the networked sphere, ‘surveillance capitalism,’ and considers its implications for ‘information civilization.’ The institutionalizing practices and operational assumptions of Google Inc. are the primary lens for this analysis as they are rendered in two recent articles authored by Google Chief Economist Hal Varian. Varian asserts four uses that follow from computer-mediated transactions: ‘data extraction and analysis,’ ‘new contractual forms due to better monitoring,’ ‘personalization and customization,’ and ‘continuous experiments.’ An examination of the nature and consequences of these uses sheds light on the implicit logic of surveillance capitalism and the global architecture of computer mediation upon which it depends. This architecture produces a distributed and largely uncontested new expression of power that I christen: ‘Big Other.’ It is constituted by unexpected and often illegible mechanisms of extraction, commodification, and control that effectively exile persons from their own behavior while producing new markets of behavioral prediction and modification. Surveillance capitalism challenges democratic norms and departs in key ways from the centuries-long evolution of market capitalism.


surveillance capitalism big data Google information society privacy internet of everything 


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Copyright information

© Association for Information Technology Trust 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Business School EmeritaBostonUSA
  2. 2.Berkman Center for Internet and SocietyCambridgeUSA

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