So, here we are. Each month, it seems, we learn more about how our personal data and privacy is being used against us. When we found out about Cambridge Analytica's relationship with Facebook, and how they were improperly building tools to aid in Donald Trump's election, that was big news. Shocking, right? You may have felt uncomfortable about the notion that you were possibly a pawn in an effort to manipulate the voting process.
The thing is, even if you did feel uncomfortable, you either moved on to the next news story, or made a post about it, or forwarded a meme. The specifics don't matter, the important thing is that you didn't delete Facebook. Did you? Nah.
They've got us by the balls. Social media is such an integral part of our lives, the thought of living without it for a week is likely to make one fall to the floor, clutching their heart. Oh sure, I know some folks who don't bother with it. But for the most part, they're over the age of 60 and never cared for tech, so the tendrils of these apps didn't reach them. We continue to use these web sites and apps daily, despite being more informed than ever about what they're doing with our data.
And now, this new story, which implicates even more of the big dogs (Amazon, MicroSoft, etc) in a larger scheme to illicitly share you. If you're on the internet, you're a commodity. With the first web browser, Spry Mosaic in 1993, came cookies. Cookies save your data. They were pretty simple at first, just a means to save passwords and form data so you wouldn't have to re-enter information every time to returned to a page. But you can bet it escalated quickly.
We're two decades-plus into a world where your privacy has been used against you. It's not limited to social media, of course. Every contract you electronically sign, every product you register online, adds more nuance to your marketing profile. Every time you click 'I Agree', you're telling that company that you're totally cool with them selling your identity and integrating it with countless other sources.
The biggest problem is that all of this tech makes life so nice. If your grandma is so inclined, she can be on one of these networks and you can message her instantly. When my grandparents moved from Columbus to San Diego in the 1980s, we wrote each other letters. Kids, I swear, it took three whole days for those letters to make it across the country. We had to put these things called stamps, which cost money, on envelopes, and wait a week or more for a response. Today, my childhood friend, who lives in New York, is able to connect to his family back home with live video for his kids to interact with. It's great stuff. We're never going back to the dark ages.
Also, this isn't a problem in the sense that it affects our lives in negative ways. Yes, if you purchase an MP3 player on Amazon, then immediately reload Facebook, you'll see an ad for that same MP3 player, telling you that you need it. That's kind of strange and misguided, but whatever, we scroll past it to get to that next great meme. Personal data and privacy aren't tangible enough to make us care enough. You might perk up when you hear about how your info is being used, but unless your credit card has actually been stolen, it's tough to get your head around it all. You'd have to take time to read about it, to learn what the tech is doing, and most of us are too busy for all that.
On a side note, Mark Zuckerberg must be one of the most immature CEOs to ever run a company. He can't speak honestly, or with any clarity, about what his company does. Go check out his Q & A sessions with congress and the like. His body language screams awkwardness, as he knows each answer he provides is layered with complications that he hopes to God won't be revealed. I don't see the giant being toppled, certainly not. But it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years.
I'm as complicit as anyone in terms of clicking 'I Agree'. I'm fully aware of what's happening but the lifeline of my work runs through Facebook and Twitter. The connections and ability to engage are essential. So, we keep going.
Thanks for reading!