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Surveillance Capitalism (Shoshana Zuboff) & Dark Matters (Simone Browne)

Surveillance Capitalism (Shoshana Zuboff) & Dark Matters (Simone Browne)

Aw, one of the many things that connects us all around the world: surveillance. *insert cute emojis*

As organizers on the ground, many of us are constantly working on trying to build out global solidarity, transnational networks, and borderless collaboration. And yet, “terror tech” has beat us to it. Tested on Palestinians by Israel and sold to India’s occupation of Kashmir, or skill-sharing between local US police forces facial recognition surveillance of working-class Black communities and communities of color with facial recognition software enabling the Chinese internment camps of millions of Uyghur Muslims in Eastern Turkmenistan (also known as Western China), a borderless world has already been created: it’s just online and in government databases around the world.

But I don’t want to terrify you; I’ll let the readings and additional resources do that — I do want to quickly say a few words about why we here at #BecauseWe’veRead have decided to focus on this unit today. Tech developments are inevitable, but surveillance, surveillance capitalism, and intrusive tracking are not. We can live in–and even celebrate–a tech-driven world without submitting to the wills of power. It’s not “normal” for google to be able to track your every move, for Amazon to detect your accent and record your conversations when Alexa is supposedly “off”, or to step outside to a forest of cameras watching you, even if you “have nothing to hide.”

This is about not allowing corporations, along with their (highly profitable!) collaborations with structures of power, to set the conditions for who has control and access to our bodies and the intimacies of who we are, and in doing so, cataloguing, organizing, controlling, and criminalizing our everyday lives.

Terror tech and surveillance capitalism is terrifying, and you may even have to put the books down a few times to take in what you’re reading, but it’s not permanent–if we don’t want it to be. This unit we’re also sharing the work of and talking to organizers, activists, hackers, and creatives who are resisting the surveillance states many of us call home.

Finally, as tech is most definitely the exponentially growing future, I cannot really stress how important this unit is. This is not going away unless we understand it, understand why it is inherently unjust, how we can protect ourselves and communities, and resist on a global scale.

On that note with this unit we’re also launching two companion projects: a Digital Safety Worksheet to keep you and your communities safe, and a Global Surveillance Database, where we’re inviting you to document surveillance in your cities and share it with us as part of a community-compiled virtual database connecting the brands and equipment occupying our neighborhoods around the world. More on both of those projects below.

For this conversation, we’re so thrilled to be joined by a #dreamteam of some of our favorite scholars, activists, artists, and hackers fighting to keep us all safe at the intersections of surveillance, anti-Blackness, capitalism, the war on terror, and the carceral state.

Join us for a conversation with Simone Browne, scholar and author of Dark Matters; Assia Boundaoui, award-winning filmmaker and director of The Feeling of Being Watched; Freddy Martinez, Director of the Lucy Parsons Labs; and Sarah Hamid, activist with the Carceral Tech Resistance Network. | Watch the recording here


Activities / Projects

Did you really think we were just going to put out terrifying readings on surveillance and not give you info on how to keep you & your communities safe? This unit, we’re taking the next step to make sure that our BWR community is staying safe and protecting their loved ones. We’re launching two companion projects below that we recommend organizing with your friends or local BWR chapter. We keep us safe!




Whether you’re organizing protests or just communicating with friends and family, keeping your (and your community’s!) personal information safe from hackers, state surveillance, the far-right, and other threats is vitally important. We’re only individually as safe as the most digitally vulnerable person in our networks. 

Download the 5-page checklist & worksheet and host a digital anti-surveillance party with your friends to go through it all together!

*p.s. this worksheet is totally free of course and we’re not requesting that you join our email list to access it, but let us be frank: social media’s increasing censorship of radical content that we release will only appear lower and lower on your timelines, if at all. We encourage you to sign up for email updates so you can make sure you have a copy of everything you need right in your inbox when we release new units and projects! 




The title here is pretty self-explanatory: we’re watching back the watchers, globally. We’ve already learned how interconnected surveillance technologies–and the companies that produce them–are connected across borders, so we too should follow their transnational lead and collaborate with each other to watch, document, and catalogue the surveillance of our communities.

We’re asking our global BWR community to document the surveillance in our neighborhoods, on our commutes to work, and all around us: snap a photo of the surveillance cameras or microphones, note any brands or companies you can see, and upload it to our encrypted and anonymous submission form along with city information. We’ll be cataloguing all the photos on a public virtual gallery where we can start connecting the dots–and cameras–between our neighborhoods around the world, from Hebron, Palestine to Nairobi, Kenya to Chicago, USA.


Additional Resources

+ “How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Ordinary Apps” (including popular Muslim prayer & dating apps)

+ “How China’s ‘Xinjiang Mode’ draws from US, British, and Israeli counterinsurgency strategy” (essay)

+ Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, Ruha Benjamin (book)

+ “The Feeling of Being Watched” Assia Boundaoui (film)

Surveillance in an Era of Pandemic & Protest with Naomi Klein, Shoshana Zuboff, and Simone Browne (video)


+ Tech-enabled ‘terror capitalism’ is spreading worldwide. The surveillance regimes must be stopped, Guardian (article)

+ Electric Frontier Foundation (organization)

Cell-Site Simulators/IMSI Catchers, Electric Frontier Foundation (fact/info sheet)

+ Facial Recognition Technology, Electric Frontier Foundation (fact/info sheet)

+ Atlas of Surveillance, Electric Frontier Foundation (database for U.S.)

+ International Resources, Electric Frontier Foundation (resource list)

Spot the Surveillance, Electric Frontier Foundation (game)

+ “Boycott AnyVision: Israel’s “field-tested” facial recognition surveillance company” BDS (article)

+ Lucy Parsons Lab (organization, Chicago)

+ Carceral Tech Resistance Network (organization, Portland)

+ Deep Lab (organization, USA)

+ The Citizens Lab (organization, Canada)

+ Derechos Digitales (organization, Chile)

+ SMEX (organization, Lebanon)

+ SAFEnet (organization, Southeast Asia)

+ “The Social Dilemma, Netflix (documentary, though we’ve also heard our critiques of the mostly-white cast discussing the technology)

+ “What a Cellebrite hacking looks like, ZDnet (image)


+ “Everything We Know About How the FBI Hacks People”, Wired (article)

Facial recognition technology, NACDL (webinar on how it works)

Verax: A Graphic History of Electronic Surveillance, Pratap Chatterjee and Khalil Bendib (graphic novel)

The Muslims are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, Arun Kundnani (book)

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, Glenn Greenwald (book)

+ War on Terror, Asim Qureshi (Research Director of CAGE UK)

Life inside China’s Total Surveillance State, Wall Street Journal (video)

+ “As Trump relaunches Countering Violent Extremism, records on past Illinois program reveal links to FBI, law enforcement“, The Chicago Reporter

China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority, The Guardian (podcast)

Institutionalizing the Surveillance of Muslim Activism in Austria, Farid Hafez (article)

Adam Elliott-Cooper on Surveillance, Racism and BLM (video)

An Interview with Hacker ‘Phineas Fisher’ as a Puppet, VICE (video)

+ Hacking Team sold spyware to a number of repressive clients, The Intercept (article)

+ “Hacking Team’s ‘Illegal’ Latin American Empire”, VICE (article)

+ “Operation Legend is bringing surveillance tech to cities”, The Intercept (article)

+ “Singapore’s Flawed Data Privacy Regime”, New Naratif (article)

+ Inside the Video Surveillance Program IBM Built for Philippine Strongman Rodrigo Duterte, The Intercept (article)

+ “Surveillance of minority Muslims in southern Thailand is powered by Chinese-style tech“, Coda (article)

The Future Is Muslim Episode 1 – How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Muslims, Maslaha (podcast)

+ The Prevent Strategy and the UK ‘war on terror’: embedding infrastructures of surveillance in Muslim communities, Fahid Qurashi (article)

Science in Dark Times: a syllabus on science, technology, and medicine under illiberal political regimes, Bharat Jayram Venkat (syllabus)

The Color of Surveillance: Law and History, Professor Alvaro M. Bedoya (syllabus)

+ “Reflections on the transformative potential of refusal as method in the design of technology” short essay ft. our discussant Sarah Hamid, that also acts as a great hint & transition point to our next unit launching in December! 👀