86_DO03_Rosamond_Rafman_The 9 Eyes of Google Street View
Jon Rafman The 9 Eyes of Google Street View, 2009-, installation view, End User, Hayward Gallery Project Space, London, 2014-2015.
Photo : Michael Brzezinski

The Surveillance Economy: Toward a Geopolitics of Personalization

Emily Rosamond
On May 20, 2013, Booz Allen Hamilton infrastructure analyst Edward Snowden, having taken a leave of absence from his work, quietly fled from Hawaii to Hong Kong. Shortly afterward, stories about the classified documents that he had leaked, which revealed the enormous extent of the National Security Agency’s global surveillance program, rippled across the world. By tracking phone metadata and online activity, the NSA was enacting the ambition to collect all personal communications: email content, telephone metadata, online searches, and other information trails.

In doing so, it conceptualized, and put into practice, a pervasive link between two vastly different geopolitical sites. On the one hand, there was the citizen’s mind: abstractly, yet minutely, conceived as a node of viewpoints, data, and tendencies co-producing ever-shifting networks and moving through space. On the other hand, there was the data repository (notably, the Utah Data Center): a storage site for sleeper dossiers filled with personal information, which could be called upon if an individual came to be “of interest” in the future.

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