Democracy Hacked Martin Moore

Smile: you’re up for sale on the web

Tech firms auction you off to the highest bidder every time you click on a website, historian Martin Moore told Buxton International Festival.

Dr Moore wrote his book, Democracy Hacked, after researching the instability of the world’s political system since the rise of the internet.

He found that the money-making schemes of firms like Google and Facebook had been adapted by political parties to bring in votes the way advertising firms brought in customers.

Advertising technology, or ad tech, was now so sophisticated that in the fraction of a second while the advert spaces on your screen go blank, Google is auctioning off your personality profile to the highest bidder who will then flash up a message designed to grab your attention.

Political parties across the world were now using that technology to target people so successfully that door-to-door canvassing was becoming a thing of the past.

“We are finally waking up to the idea that our data has become incredibly important to any political campaign,” said Dr Moore, who is director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at King’s College London.

“Data has become a parallel currency which is worth more than money.”

Now China’s Social Credit System had merged politics and commerce into a version of our financial credit ratings, but with the Communist Party rating your behaviour as a citizen.

“In the Chinese subway, screens along the platform show people who have a low credit score to shame them,” said Dr Moore. “This is having a real social and material effect in China.”

Some countries, such as Estonia which had recent experience of oppression through Soviet surveillance, had enshrined citizens’ rights with a law that meant the authorities had to tell people every time their records were being checked—and by whom.

“We need to create new spaces where we can talk directly to our representatives instead of shouting at each other on Twitter,” he said.