Disclaimer: What you are about to read may contain inaccuracies. Feel free to discuss them somewhere else. This is also my opinion and as such it may change through time, maybe tomorrow, next month, next year, next decade or never. I do also make very few reviews (if any) of what I write here so this article won’t be polished by any means and it is coming out of my mind and gut pretty raw.
I was born in 1981 and that doesn’t only make me a generation Y member, or a millenial depending on how crazily you count the thousands, it allows me to be one of those who truely bridge analog tech with digital.
I still remember the internet without Google, writing down on a piece of paper an URL a friend had recommended so you wouldn’t forget on your way home. Directories and AOL (for America On Line) were the services where one could search for information in the world wide web. No easy search for a result after typing some words in a box. One had to click into directories of categories to search for a website containing the desired information, if any. Sometimes you just couldn’t find something of your interest. I still remember the Google front page stating it was ‘Beta’.
The original sin was subttle, not very transgressive, just minimal. One could use Firefox for free, which got their revenue from the searches Google paid them to have those transferred to their servers. It seemed fair for everyone. The user got a free, reliable browser, as well as good search results, and both companies had some money. Google was selling adds consumers viewed in their searches and was paying Mozilla for making Google the default search engine. This was my first time of selling my privacy in exchange for a service. Millions, possibly hundreds of millions, did the same. I was aware of the deal and it seemed right. But was everyone aware of this deal? How many people wasn’t?
Nowadays we live in almost a permanent sin, sunk deep into privacy issues and no one seems to care. Putting aside the privacy issues some questionable actions browsers take such as Firefox sending the searches to Google, Yahoo and the likes, or the even worst sending of the complete URL you visit (even from intranets) to Google as the Chrome browser does, we have some other difficult issues to tackle.
Google and Facebook (which includes Facebook itself, Instagram and WhatsApp) are two giant companies getting revenue from investors around the world as well as from the services they offer. Mainly advertisement to companies willing to pay for targeted ads. Economists have encountered some new problems to effectively calculate the amount of money this type of economy really generates. You see, because users are not paying money to use the services, they do not only become the product to sell to the advertising companies, it does also become difficult to calculate the influence of this behaviour, monetary and real value wise. What is the value of the picture I just uploaded? What is the value of anything we do in these platforms? Is it right they keep all the money and the users just get ‘services’?
Governments like Russia’s and Kazakhstan’s lead by the USA’s are involved in hidden Cyber World War III. But this war is not only fought between them, but within. Influencing another country’s elections has always been a wet dream of some evil politicians and high rank government officials (as well as military ones) throughout the centuries. However in the name of security, like if it were a sacred word, and some other scaremongering tactics, officials such as the attorey general of the USA are asking for the impossible when they tackle encryption. A backdoor is a not just a problem. It is a ‘let me in because I am the government’ sort of attitude. They are attacking their own citizens’ freedom. Back in the day England lost the american colonies. It should be reminded to those officials, so they may loose their own citizens if they keep alienating them at every given chance.
The west used to protect the individual, the self, and had developed attitudes and actions to preserve society as a group of indiviuals based on principles that balanced out the need to be of the group at the same time the individual was protected. What is the point of being part of a group that doesn’t respect the most basic needs and rights of the individual?
Nowadays it seems a bit more difficult than in the ‘good’ old days. Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft and often times Google remind me to the Stasi. Just replace the government officials for marketing people and the comparison starts to make sense. And of course, it has always been on your best interest. You never seem to think right, politically or purchase wise. If you are unhappy with this ‘unfortunate’ comparison, nevermind, just remember of governments such as the USA tapping the wires to sniff communications back and forth the USA, getting tons of information from those same platforms. Of course they did that on your own interest. You know… ‘security sometimes needs some sacrifice’ they may say.
It’s not just bad government here and there. It is also companies and the general public attitude. To me it is still worth trading my search, and therefore my interests being revealed, for good results in an organized manner. I just hope they anonymize my data safely enough, although I know that is not really possible. However I am in discomfort using the email services I use. Even if I paid for those I wouldn’t trust those companies so they don’t through a bot to scan my email. Hence I am planning to run my own email server instead with all the issues that brings up. I may not be better than them doing the security work. But I will surely know who to blame if anything goes wrong.
It’s not just searches, email, social platforms, it’s operating systems too. Heard of Android? Yup, that one. Even if you disable all the toggles for tracking the device records the antennas it is connected to and sends them back to Google. There they can build a map of devices and their location. How on earth would a service like maps would work so efficiently telling you how much time it takes to drive from A to B? It’s not just the cars with the cameras on top. It’s every Android device around. Is the posh Apple user in you moving your head in denial with a sudden rush to tell everyone else to switch? You’ve been fooled too.
It was just a search result for free. A free browser. A free place to upload pictures and share them with your friends. It was just a free messaging platform. It was a free email account. But it wasn’t. Yes, it didn’t cost us money. It cost privacy. And we know it. It may be ok, but where is the line when it is no more? Where is the sin?
I’ll talk about cost in the next entry of Politics. It may take me a while to write it, so read about the rest of the content in the meanwhile.