Technology’s shocking invasion of privacy gained momentum in the early 1970s when supermarkets began installing closed circuit television cameras to monitor the aisles for shoplifting. Not many customers complained, and management seemed indifferent to the philosophical implications.

So from there, tech’s invasive powers continued to grow. By the mid-1980s, supermarket chains were compiling vast stores of information on customers through surveys and cash register receipts. C-level execs and their IT experts felt confident that someday they’d figure out what to do with the data they were amassing.

By 2016, data scientists and political operatives knew exactly how to use their ever-expanding mountains of intelligence. In one...

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