En 2013, Edward Snowden révélait l’existence de plusieurs programmes de surveillance américains et britanniques. Les scandales se succèdent et se multiplient depuis ; pas une année ne passe sans que Google ou Facebook se voient accusés d’exploitation abusive des données personnelles de leurs utilisateurs. Impossible, à présent, de continuer à se bercer de l’illusion selon laquelle nos données personnelles ne seraient que quelques aiguilles dans la botte de foin qu’est Internet : elles sont au contraire de plus en plus faciles à retrouver et à exploiter, à des fins marchandes ou politiques. Mais Bernard E. Harcourt, qui publie La Société d’exposition, n’est pas un lanceur d’alerte : c’est en philosophe qu’il aborde la société numérique contemporaine.
« Le numérique est beaucoup plus futé et tenace que l’humain »
Dans La société d’exposition, désir et désobéissance à l’ère numérique (Seuil), le professeur de philosophie politique et de droit à Columbia et directeur d’études à l’EHESS, Bernard E. Harcourt expose pourquoi on a tort de comparer les sociétés de surveillance à 1984. Contrairement à l’œuvre d’Orwell, nous ne sommes pas dans la répression de nos désirs, mais au contraire dans le plein assouvissement de ceux-ci.
"il faut comprendre Exposed comme un questionnement et un redéploiement des outils d’une théorie critique contemporaine souhaitant détecter et résister à la diffusion d’un nouveau type de pouvoir, dont nous sommes, en partie, les architectes (in)volontaires."
Avec le numérique, nous livrons tout de nous. Le moteur de cette mise à nu: le plaisir, selon le philosophe Bernard E. Harcourt. Est-il encore possible de reprendre la main sur nos vies?
When hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Hong Kong this summer, central figures reportedly took no selfies, avoided Facebook and Twitter, installed prepaid SIM cards, stuck to secure messaging apps, and used cash instead of rechargeable subway cards or other cashless payments. It is not clear whether this will help them avoid ‘‘conspiracy to commit public nuisance’’ charges, which led to prison sentences for leaders of the 2014 Umbrella movement (including sociologist Kin-man Chan). But it is clear that growing concerns about digital surveillance, online privacy, and data aggregation were anything but abstract to protesters.
"For about $50, you can get a smartphone with a high-definition display, fast data service and, according to security contractors, a secret feature: a backdoor that sends all your text messages to China every 72 hours..."
"Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers.
That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. . . ."
"On Tuesday, Americans handed the U.S. presidency to a racist, xenophobic, authoritarian, climate science-denying, misogynistic, revenge-obsessed ego-maniac — and with it control over a vast and all-too-unaccountable intelligence apparatus; and in a speech less than three weeks ago, Trump promised to sue all of the women who have come forward with sexual assault accusations against him. . . ."
"One of the biggest insurance companies in Britain is to use social media to analyse the personalities of car owners and set the price of their insurance.
The unprecedented move highlights the start of a new era for how companies use online personal data and will start a debate about privacy. . ."
"With the passage of a new law earlier this year, North Dakota has become the first state to legalize law enforcement use of armed drones. . ."
"In the wake of the two grand jury decisions to refuse to indict police officers in the homicides of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island, a protest was organized for Saturday, December 13, 2014, in New York City. The organizers of the Millions March set up a Facebook page, where, by the night before, more than 45,000 people had RSVPed. It was posted as a public event on Facebook, so everyone and anyone could see who had signed up to attend—providing everyone and anyone, including the social media unit of the New York City Police Department, a costless, pristine list of all the individuals who feel so strongly about the problem of police accountability that they are willing to identify themselves publicly. . . ."
"A powerful surveillance program that police used for tracking racially charged protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., relied on special feeds of user data provided by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an ACLU report Tuesday. . . ."
“The most socially alarming effect of the digital revolution is the state of continuous surveillance endured, with varying levels of complaisance, by everyone who uses a smartphone. Bernard Harcourt’s intellectually energetic book Exposed surveys the damage inflicted on privacy by spy agencies and private corporations, encouraged by citizens who post constant online updates about themselves… Harcourt describes a new kind of psyche that seeks, through its exposed virtual self, satisfactions of approval and notoriety that it can never truly find. It exists in order to be observed.”
“Real and imaginary panopticons of incarceration from centuries past pale in comparison with those that surround us today. Rather than acquiescing to structures of command and surveillance by force, against our will, and in confinement, we have surrendered to them voluntarily, without duress, and at scale. The condition of willful exposure Harcourt describes in his book challenges well-worn tropes of critical theory… We have only begun to understand the personal and political implications of the expository society in which surveillance is both more total and more voluntary than was ever imagined. The nightmare of George Orwell’s 1984 is in some ways less intrusive than the reality of 2016. Harcourt’s book ultimately points to the desire at the root of our need for exposure… Exposed sounds a timely alarm about the proliferation of such seemingly banal but powerful surveillance mechanisms… We do not live under a tyrannical regime today. But Harcourt’s book does identify infrastructures that have the potential to invite tyranny.”
“We live in what Harcourt calls an expository society: where privacy is no longer a core value and ‘all the formerly coercive surveillance technology is now woven into the very fabric of our pleasure and fantasies’… The force of his new book lies in his synthesis of a huge amount of history and theory, ranging from the Ancient Greeks to the twentieth century, into a persuasive picture of how and why we have stopped valuing privacy… So why don’t people care more about their privacy? Harcourt’s book is forceful and passionate, theoretically advanced, and persuasive about the dangers of an alliance between the government and the for-profit sector. The rigorous reader will be very satisfied by his precise use of terminology, and by the fact that he does not set up an absolute dichotomy between freedom and technology. But he also acknowledges that knowledge of these practices doesn’t seem to be enough to move people to action… When Harcourt points out that wearing the Apple Watch essentially turns consumers into parolees, he gives us a very powerful way to think about our present state, one that we need more of. Because we won’t care about privacy until we feel its absence as a loss, a physical limitation, an affront.”
“The problem, as Harcourt observes, is that where once autonomy and anonymity were part of a humanist ‘ecology,’ privacy has now ‘itself been transformed into a type of good that can be traded, bought, or sold… Privacy has been privatized.’ …Even so, many people are not particularly bothered by what faceless corporations or even governments can learn about them from their data exhaust. Many who are not celebrities or other high-profile snooping targets trust in ‘security through obscurity’: why would anyone be interested in my personal information anyway? Harcourt’s approach is illuminating. Rather than trying to resolve the argument one way or the other, he suggests that there is a new digital class distinction between two kinds of people: those who feel comfortable with implicit surveillance ‘because of their privilege’ in other spheres, and those who feel harmed because their lives are precarious anyway—they feel that they are ‘potential targets, the usual suspects.’