What do they have on us?
Do you really want to know?
Honestly, I’m not sure what’s crazier, the fact that all this data is just out there. That we’re all just so numb to it, that the standard in tech is complete nonchalance when it comes to privacy and security. Or that we own our data, yet we have no fuckin idea what it is. Let alone where it is, who has access, what its used for, and a million other questions.
Can you even name one other thing you own, but you don’t know what it is, what’s it worth, no say in how it’s used, or who can use it. No, that'd be absolutely insane. I’m trying to come up with an analogy, but it's so crazy, nothing even makes sense. I mean, a company can literally collect all of your most private intimate moments, not tell you (they’ll just bury it in a bunch of legal garbage with permissions and opt-outs that make 0 sense) and then sell all that data to someone else for a shit ton of money, and still, you don't know! The closest example I can think of would be if you owned your house, like mortgage paid off and everything. Then just randomly, the state you’re living in was like nah, we gonna trade you to another state, but not tell you until you’re robbed. The original state is like oh ya, not our problem. You actually now belong to this other state, where your insurance doesn’t apply, and they don’t have police.
Like seriously, what the fuck. If it's our data, which it is. Aren’t we entitled to have a say over it? I feel like we’re not asking for a lot here…
Those particularly deep in the topic might point to GDPR (Europe) or CCPA (California) as laws requiring companies to make available to us users, our data. The problem with this, and there are oh so many (I’ll try to write a blog going much deeper.), is that a giant collection of files containing raw data does me NO GOOD. Like WTF, am I going to do with 300 JSON files? That’s like mailing you all the parts to your car and being like done! Just comb thru it all to figure out if your car’s got solid brakes.
Look, it’s an extremely complicated problem with little to no motivation for those who can actually do something about it. Ya, no, not the government 🙄. We’re talking about the kind of problem that makes your head spin just from thinking about it. Like, what is actually user data? For example, your local convenience store could keep a tally of all users that come into their store every day to make sure they have the right inventory. Is it your data that you were there on a given date? Or is it the store's data for paying an employee to write it all down? Or is it both? What happens if a chain buys that convenience store and that chain sells the data to a marketing agency which works with dozens of brands to target market to you?
I downloaded my FB data when I left the platform months ago. I was never really a big user and hadn’t been active since maybe 2011? The point being it was 300MB @ 2.7B users, that’s oh just 810 MILLION GIGABYTES, aka 810 petabytes of user data.
You’ll hear people in tech say things like you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Or the internet was never built for this. What they really mean is the internet was built specifically to SHARE data. You can’t just go back and add things like privacy and control. You either have to start over or work with what you’ve got, and man, that’s hard. I find people often think either, damn software is magic, or it’s easy, you get paid a bunch of money to just type into a computer. Worse case, you can always change it tomorrow. When in reality, it’s expensive, grueling work from hundreds or even thousands of engineers to turn even simple data into the magical experiences we expect.
After all that time, money, and pain, you think companies want to solve data privacy? They would just be making things harder for themselves, removing revenue streams, putting up walls where there are no rules today. What for when we keep yelling at each on FB regardless of how frequently our privacy is violated. It’s a highly technical issue rooted in human emotion. Big tech won’t fix it, the government cant, us users must.