Kuva Versus the Digital Surveillance Economy

Kuva Versus the Digital Surveillance Economy

At Kuva, we offer our customers a way to deliver their services online without having to participate in a digital economy based on the harvesting and monetising of user data. But what does this mean, and why is it so important?

What is the Digital Surveillance Economy?

Whenever we do anything on the internet – visiting a page, leaving a comment, making a video call – we leave a trace behind us. These traces are not just records of our activities. When put together with other information (for instance, from social media profiles), they can provide powerful insights about our identities, habits, desires, fears and much more. Web companies gather this data and use it to tailor their services, design new products and make predictions about their users’ future behaviour.

It is also used to produce and target online adverts. Advertising is one of the primary funding sources for the “free” web services we all use everyday. In 2019, 98.5% of Facebook’s revenue came from ads. For Google, the figure was 70.9%. But these giants are really just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface are a bewildering array of different organisations – data brokers, ad exchanges, programmatic platforms – all trafficking in the data generated by ordinary users like you and me. This system uses what it knows about us to tailor and target advertisements on the basis of our demographic and psychological characteristics.

Surveillance-based internet has effectively abolished the concept of privacy. The system is too complex for any of us to offer our informed consent

Why is this a problem?

Where to start!?!? The surveillance-based internet has effectively abolished the concept of privacy. The system described above is far too complex for any of us to offer our informed consent, and operates outside of the privacy policy of any individual organisations. This means that our data is being used to target us in ways we can’t possibly be aware of – likely on the basis of characteristics we would consider private and sensitive.

The digital surveillance economy has also powered the construction of an internet the primary goals of which are a) to generate as much user data as possible, and b) to encourage as many people as possible to view and click on ads. This basic fact is behind so many of the increasingly obvious “downsides” to the modern web – the addictive design of social media platforms, their tendency to promote controversial or even hateful content, the invasive behaviour of so many big tech companies. Without a fundamental change to this economic structure, it is hard to see how we will be able to build a kinder, freer and more useful internet.


Ok, but why is this a problem for me?

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digital service provision. Professionals in fields such as therapy and counselling, legal advice, medicine and many more besides are now obliged to meet their clients remotely, and this is likely to remain the case for many in the years to come.

The delivery of a professional person-to-person service depends on a relationship of trust between client and provider, based in part on the promise of confidentiality. When we meet in person, this relationship can be established face-to-face. When we use digital communications software, the software provider becomes an intermediary in this relationship. It is their responsibility to uphold the bond of trust and confidentiality between provider and client. However, many of the most widely used platforms cannot perform this task, because they are plugged into the digital surveillance economy described above.

There are many ways that data from a video call can leak out into the broader digital surveillance economy. Some platforms reserve the right to sell metadata (who you spoke to, when, for how long etc) on to third parties; others transfer the data they hold about you to servers located many thousands of miles away, in different countries. Have you ever been prompted to sign into an app using your social media or email account? If you did, the data from both sources has now been combined into a single package, providing both parties with information they would otherwise have not been able to access.

We hope you can see the problem this poses for the providers of confidential services. Using unsecured video apps to meet with your clients not only fails to safeguard their privacy, it also exposes them to data brokers and advertisers who now know that they have used your services, and will target them on that basis. This sounds extremely troubling – and it is! – but be reassured – there is a way for you to operate your practice online without putting your clients a risk.

What is the solution?

The only way to guarantee protection for yourself and your clients is to contact them through a secure system which provides all the features you need without exposing your data to any third parties. Unlike alternative offerings, we’ve built every aspect of Kuva ourselves (including the videochat functionality), so when we say that we’ll protect your data, we know that this promise is ours and ours alone. All our features – videocall, text chat, document transfer, appointment booking and more – exist wholly within the Kuva system, so there’s no need to stitch together apps from different providers (with different privacy policies) to get the service you need. All your client interactions will be as private as if they’d taken place face-to-face in a secure meeting room.

Kuva isn’t a platform – it’s a professional service. We partner with our customers to help them take care of their business and their clients. We have dedicated staff to guide you through set-up and to help troubleshoot any issues that might arise. At Team and Enterprise level, you can even customise the interface with your own branding. There is quite simply no need to continue with digital workflows with jeopardise both your clients’ privacy and your own professional reputation. Get in touch with us today to discover a new way of working.