Michelle Kurtz

Surveillance is defined as tracking or monitoring individuals with the purpose of changing their behavior (Gilliom & Monahan, 2012, p. 18). Internet surveillance is using tracking methods in order to alter behaviors. Since using the internet is an obligation in many places, it is an ideal platform to track and manipulate behavior. While people are in some way uncomfortable with their every move being tracked, they continue to use the internet anyway. Examples of internet surveillance include using Google Maps to get to a location, searching Google for restaurant recommendations, or YouTube tracking your views to suggest videos to watch. Internet surveillance is convenient and useful, fostering demand for surveilance-based features in online platforms.

A common method of tracking internet use is though cookies. Cookies are text files found in the memory of browsers that recognize devices as well as remember information (Gilliom & Monahan, 2013). These features that track online shopping and remember usernames and passwords. This convenient function can save people the time of having to manually sign in to a website they visit daily. Cookies also collect user activity, making the user’s experience more convenient. However, these benefits are not free. Users provide information to advertisers that can be shared and analyzed. Advertisers collect massive amount of information through the internet. The data is used to build profiles of individuals to target them. It is often difficult to avoid sharing internet activity and information, which is why many people do not put extensive efforts into protecting their data Hill, 2012).


Gilliom, J., & Monahan, T. (2013). SuperVision: An introduction to the surveillance society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hill, K. (2012, March 1). Your digital self is on an auctioning block every single day. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/03/01/your-digital-self-is-on-an-auctioning-block-every-single-day/#51aac081782a


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Key Concepts in Surveillance Studies Copyright © 2019 by Michelle Kurtz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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