Google official response to Zuboff's Surveillance Capitalism?

I was just reading Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism book this week (about 300 pages in, just 200 to go! lol). I know a lot of people in this community have written commentaries or responses to the book.
I’ve been able to find plenty of academic responses. Bryan Alexander’s book club provides chapter by chapter summaries and plenty of links to other technology critics’ comments on the book.)

But I have yet to find any responses from any of the tech companies called out in the book. Has any one here come across statements from Eric Schmidt, Mark Zuckerberg, or any of the other tech executives who were portrayed negatively in the book?

I tend to agree with Zuboff’s description of the situation, but I was just curious if any of the companies that depend on the surveillance based business model have publicly challenged any of the facts or theories presented in the book. Please share any links to interviews, panel discussions, or articles that might present the “corporate response” to the book.



I’ve never heard of anything like that. They’re guilt of secretly spying on all of humanity, and giving that information to almost anyone willing to pay. What could they possibly say, “our covert espionage on the entire world population and their most private moments is justified”?

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Haha they know what it is same as the pentagon doesn’t try and debunk books like “The Shock Doctrine” or “Confession’s of an Economic Hitman”. They know it’s true and don’t care as long as the money keeps coming.

I was a bit late to catch Mark Z’s interview with Yuval NH and found it astonishing that did not turn up on my YouTube feed. (not surprised…) I guess there are two aspects to how the tech behemoths and megalomaniacs are responding. Personally they donate a % of their wealth to deal with guilt perhaps… then they try to keep up with the most intelligent people and pick their brains to stay on top of things. INSIDE the other side (org level) of this equation is perhaps well understood… with so much data at their disposal, the ones who know KNOW that 5G internet is a DIFFERENT ball game. WE WILL WIN…!!!

Thanks for your replies. Yes, I figure Google’s official response is their user base and revenue continues to increase.

Thanks for sharing the video of Yuval Noah Harari and Zuckerberg. I try to follow this space pretty closely, and I’m surprised I missed that video!

I haven’t started Surveillance Capitalism yet, it’s getting close to the top of the ever-growing pile of books on my nightstand.

I haven’t seen any tech company respond, I suspect they’re trying not to ‘boost the signal’ re: what they are up to.

Thanks for introducing me to Bryan Alexander’s book club! Are there any academic responses you found particularly useful or insightful?

  • Bill -


I’m not Google or Facebook, just a simple academic, but got a couple of shout-outs in the book. I was a bit disappointed how everything (even arguments supporting the arguments made in the book), were presented in a rather confrontational manner… might be a style of writing (is that where the humanities style of “critical theory” comes from?)

I also agree with Alexander’s and Carr’s assessment from the review you shared:
“While Zuboff’s assessment of the costs that people incur under surveillance capitalism is exhaustive, she largely ignores the benefits people receive in return — convenience, customization, savings, entertainment, social connection, and so on. The benefits can’t be dismissed as illusory, and the public can no longer claim ignorance about what’s sacrificed in exchange for them.”


Thanks for sharing this perspective. I see what you mean on how things seemed to be presented in a more confrontational manner. Out of curiosity I referred back to the pages where Zuboff cited your work and then spent some time checking out your Google Scholar page. From my perspective it seems like your work focuses on describing what it is going on with big data from a civically minded perspective. For example, the recent article about the effect of algorithms on polarization and democracy actually seems in line with the type of work Zuboff would want to see being done.

I think Zuboff’s argument can be summarized as a concern about digital literacy and the division of learning in society. I view Zuboff’s claims that your work “confirms the privileged position of the surveillance capitalists” (p. 188) as a complaint about digital literacy. She seems concerned that only the “priestly class of data scientists” (Zuboff’s term) can access the data sets that your work engages with. As she argues against the division of learning in society it seems that anyone, even “simple academics” like you, who find themselves on the learned sign of the divide got grouped in as part of the problem, even if you might be working to bring awareness to some of the problems in which she’s concerned.

In regards to the way Zuboff dismisses the benefits of big data and technology, it seems that Zuboff kind of uses the Idiocracy argument. Yes, we have access to lots of information and powerful technologies, but the tech companies have leveraged behavioral science to such an extent it has turned us into automatons. She suggests that we aren’t really happy, we aren’t really free. Zuboff refers to this as tech companies seizing our “will to will.” The best rebuttal to Zuboff’s argument is the existence of her book. If technology has over taken our will to will, how did she write a book that defies the desires of tech companies? How did she get interviews with big data insiders? As an author it seems that she forgot about the “me in the we.” Zuboff is certainly a talented writer and thinker, but I don’t believe that she is the only human that has been able to wiggle out of the surveillance capitalist system. If she can do it, lots of other people are probably doing it too, and thus the problems she describes might not be as all encompassing as she suggests. If the “me” of the author can be outside of the effects outlined in the book maybe the “we” of the audience can be outside the effects as well.