Shoshana Zuboff (courtesy WikiPedia)

Harvard Business School emerita professor Shoshana Zuboff says there is a competitive opportunity for a privacy-respecting alliance of companies to counter Google, Facebook and other platforms she calls “surveillance capitalists” in her just-published book — and such an alliance would have the potential to have “every person on earth as a customer.”

Zuboff has given numerous interviews and published a Jan. 24  op-ed in the Washington Post since her book’s publication in mid-January, but these particular comments came in a Jan. 26 audio podcast interview with consumer-activist Ralph Nader.

Beginning 43 minutes into the discussion, Zuboff says:

“We haven’t talked much about competitive opportunties here. That no-exit becomes a massive competitive opportunity for a group of other companies to come in and become the hub for an alternative ecosystem that is not surveillance capitalism but returns us to a reasonable equilibriumn so that the digital is actually aligned with our interests, so we get back to that vision of the digital as empowering and pro-democratic. The alliance of companies that does this, perhaps led by somebody like Tim Cook, at Apple, not that they are without fault, but they have the capability to do this should they really to use to step into history this way.”

Zuboff continues: “This is a competive opportunity that actually offers the companies who are to step into this challenge, offers them every person on earth as a customer, certainly every person on earth who has to deal with the Internet in any kind of way. Everyone will want to be their customer. Everyone will choose the alternative. Because when people understand surveillance capitalism, they don’t want to have anything to do with it.”

“These competitive opportunies are going to be come very attractive and compelling, I think, because thats the way markets work,” she adds.

Discussing her idea with Nader, she talks of the opportunity as involving “the need for new forms of collaborative action.”   She says she is already hearing from and receiving emails from privacy-respecting companies with ideas. “Many of these things are precolating right [now] and the question is how do they come together under new leadership, new framing of capital, of how we do capitalism in the digital era, that can really make this coalesce as a powerful alternative. Right now things are pretty fragmented is what I’m saying … but all of this and more can come together to really create an alternative.”

Her book is The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power

(October 2018, Campus Verlag; January 2019, Public Affairs)