Five Fears About Mass Predictive Personalisation in an Age of Surveillance Capitalism

International Data Privacy Law, Forthcoming

15 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2018

See all articles by Karen Yeung

Karen Yeung

The University of Birmingham

Date Written: September 15, 2018


The starting point for this article begins from the observation that that data-driven service delivery is catalysing a change in modes of production and consumption, marked by a move away from ‘mass production’ in favour of ‘mass predictive personalisation’. Despite the portrayal of personalised as ‘empowering’ consumers, I identify five fears that the rise of mass predictive personalisation may portend for collective values and commitments. The first three fears are largely concerned the values of fairness and justice, and which can ultimately be attributed to the systematic use of digital profiling techniques that apply machine learning algorithms to merged sets of data collected from the digital traces generated from continuously tracking users’ on-line behaviour to make calculated predictions about individuals across a population. The remaining two fears coalesce around concerns for social solidarity and loss of community that may be associated with the increasing personalisation of services and offerings, which is both fuelling and being fuelled by, an increasingly narcissistic mindset that mass personalisation makes possible. In so doing, my aim is to provoke critical discussion and reflection that will motivate more penetrating research and place questions of this kind more firmly onto the academic, policy, public and political agenda.

Keywords: distributive justice, fairness, predictive analytics, profiling, mass personalisation, social solidarity

JEL Classification: K20, K10, K29

Suggested Citation

Yeung, Karen, Five Fears About Mass Predictive Personalisation in an Age of Surveillance Capitalism (September 15, 2018). International Data Privacy Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Karen Yeung (Contact Author)

The University of Birmingham ( email )

Law School and School of Computer Science
Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT
United Kingdom

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