TIL how Eisenhower's post-WWII policies led to what we now call "surveillance capitalism," the penetration of commerce into our personal lives

But financialization’s encouragement of surveillance capitalism went far deeper. Like advertising and national security, it had an insatiable need for data. Its profitable expansion relied heavily on the securitization of household mortgages; a vast extension of credit-card usage; and the growth of health insurance and pension funds, student loans, and other elements of personal finance. Every aspect of household income, spending, and credit was incorporated into massive data banks and evaluated in terms of markets and risk. Between 1982 and 1990 the average debt load of individuals in the United States increased by 30 percent and with it the commercial penetration into personal lives. As Christian Parenti wrote in his 1991 book, The Soft Cage, “the records produced by credit cards, bankcards, discount cards, Internet accounts, online shopping, travel receipts and health insurance all map our lives by creating digital files in corporate databases.”48 By 2000, as Michael Dawson reported in The Consumer Trap, nearly all major corporations in the United States were building huge databases, and were linked to data mining enterprises. “Symmetrical Research was advertising services such as its Advanced Analytic Solutions, which promised corporate clients ‘the power of one of the world’s most advanced marketing data analytics teams, with proprietary tools enabling the statistical analysis of…[data of the size of] the 35 terabyte Mastercard data set.’ A terabyte…is one trillion units of computerized information.”49

The largest data broker in the United States today, the marketing giant Acxiom has 23,000 computer servers processing in excess of 50 trillion data transactions annually. It keeps on average some 1,500 data points on more than 200 million Americans, in the form of “digital dossiers” on each individual, attaching to each person a thirteen-digit code that allows them to be followed wherever they go, combining online and offline data on individuals. Much of the data is now gleaned from social media, such as Facebook. Acxiom organizes this information into “premium proprietary behavioral insights.” Each person is also placed in one of seventy lifestyle clusters, focusing particularly on class, spending habits, and geographical location. Acxiom sells this data (giving varying access to its data banks) to its customers, which include twelve of the top fifteen credit-card issuing companies; seven of the top ten retail banks; five of the top ten insurance companies; six of the top ten brokerage firms; eight of the top ten media/telecommunication companies; seven of the top ten retailers; eleven of the top fourteen global automakers; and three of the top ten pharmaceutical firms. Its clients include about half of the largest one-hundred corporations in the United States.

Since September 2001 Acxiom has worked closely at sharing data with the FBI, the Pentagon, and Homeland Security. In 2001, Acxiom appointed General Wesley Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in the Kosovo War and a future U.S. presidential candidate, to its board of directors. The company paid Clark over $800,000 as a lobbyist, primarily in relation to the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. Through Clark, Acxiom began working with Poindexter’s DARPA-based TIA, helping set up the technological systems for total surveillance of the U.S. and global population.50

CBS’s 60 Minutes reported in March 2014 that clicking on the New York Times website can mean that more than a dozen third parties are “on the page that are essentially tracking your movements.” Most of the 50 million people who downloaded the “Brightest Flashlight Free” app on to their smartphone did not recognize that “the companies that gave them to you for free were using the apps to track your every movement and pass it along to other companies.” The iPhone app “Path Social,” which was ostensibly designed to help people share photos and memories with their friends, tapped into user’s digital address books and contact lists, taking all of that information. The data broker firm Epsilon has a marketing database containing more than 8 billion consumer transactions. The data broker firm Choicepoint, now part of the data giant Elsevier, maintains 17 billion records on businesses and individuals, which it has sold to around 100,000 clients, including numerous government agencies.51

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