The Power of Digital Integration

The Normalization of Tracking and Surveillance Technologies

Authored by: Guojun (Sawyer) He , Eric Ping Hung Li , Matt Husain

The Routledge Handbook of Digital Consumption

Print publication date:  September  2022
Online publication date:  September  2022

Print ISBN: 9781032329598
eBook ISBN: 9781003317524
Adobe ISBN:


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There is hardly any doubt in regards to the conveniences digitalization offers to consumers. However, as new technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, data analytics, wearable technologies, and voice-/motion-activated devices improve the quality of life, their inevitability in consumer life also creates new challenges, in particular, breaching of human rights. Thus, a growing number of scholars and human rights advocates criticize the overwhelming tracking and surveillance activities in our digital world. In this chapter, we focus on analysing panopticonism through socio-historical digital surveillance and tracking technologies as a form of digital regulatory systems that monitor personal and institutional activities amid consumption and business. Our study anchors into an overarching conception of normalization (Foucault, 1979 [1975]) in order to understand: (1) the relationship between installing comprehensive digital tracking systems in a society and the sacrifice of consumer privacy; and (2) the worrying consequence of normalizing these invasive tracking technologies that were originally developed as temporary remedies for public emergencies. By unveiling the intersection of the governance approach and the digital technologies, this chapter offers a novel perspective on the formation of states’ “meta-power”, that is, creating a meta-database by digitizing all aspects of consumers’ social and business activities to cast a gaze upon and regulate consumer lives, from birth to death.

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