Much has been written about data politics in the last decade, which has generated myriad concepts such as ‘surveillance capitalism’, ‘gig economy’, ‘quantified self’, ‘algorithmic governmentality’, ‘data colonialism’, ‘data subjects’ and ‘digital citizens’. Yet, it has been difficult to plot these concepts into an historical series to discern specific continuities and discontinuities since the origins of modern power in its three major forms: sovereign, disciplinary and regulatory. This article argues that the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 brought these three forms of power into sharp relief but made particularly visible a fourth form of power that we name ‘sensory power’, which has been emerging since the 1980s. The article draws on early studies of power by Michel Foucault, subsequent studies on biopower and biopolitics that expanded on them, and studies in the past decade that focused on data produced from apps, devices and platforms. Yet, despite its ambition, the article is inevitably an outline of a much larger project.