You’re a Big Fat Hen and Mark Zuckerberg is Selling All of Your Eggs
(or, The Importance of Visualizing Data as Physical)
I’m about to write some stuff about data. You know, all those bits of information that live somewhere inside your computer or cell phone.
Those li‘l bits pretty much run the world. Those who have the most of it can control entire populations and generate unprecedented amounts of revenue. Those who have the least of it have to wait until the start of the new billing cycle to play Clash of Clans off of the WiFi.
But before we delve into the wild world of data, we’ve got to get some things sorted out. You see, data is like a car. Or maybe it is like eggs. Data is a car full of eggs. Hold on, just hear me out for a second:
To really understand data, we have to change the way we conceptualize it. Data has to be viewed beyond just information that lives inside of your screen. We have to make data physical (because technically, it is) when you picture it in your head.
Let’s start with a car. Let’s start with YOUR car. (If you don’t have a car, for the sake of this exercise, you now do. And it’s a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder. You don’t need to know why.) Your car is yours! You buy it, you add the GameCube in the back seats, you turn the key, and the thing starts up! Dang! Look at you. You can even choose to share it! You can sell it! You can lease it out! Seems like an ideal situation, right? Total ownership and control?
Sorry, bud. Your ’55 Porsche 550 Spyder just got stolen. Or rather, you gave it away. To Mark Zuckerberg (or Jack Dorsey or Jeff Bezos or the Five Eyes…you get the point). And he’s leasing it out to everybody he knows (and he knows a LOT of people.).
Now a bunch of people you don’t know are using your car for God knows what. They’re taking a magnifying glass to everything. Everything. Even that passenger seat floor mat. Yeah. That one.
They’re checking it out and figuring out some very important details about you. You still play GameCube in 2021, and you like it enough to mod it into your car. You like indirect references to James Dean. You like to eat at Wendy’s. You like to listen to classic rock radio and, by proxy, you listen to AC/DC at least six times per hour. You wait until your gas light is on to refill.
And, most importantly, you don’t take your privacy very seriously.
This final observation is a key one, because it’s great for Zuckerberg and company, but overall quite shitty for you. Because all those people Mark leased your car out to? Pretty much all of them just installed surveillance cameras in your car. Inside and out. And they’re paying Mark to let them keep the cameras installed. Quit pickin’ your nose. We can see you. Even when you’re alone on the highway. The “Highway to Hell.” Because the radio is playing AC/DC again. And because you just gave up all your privacy.
Alright, so maybe the car metaphor isn’t up your alley. We can try a different angle.
What is important isn’t what you visualize when you think about data, but rather that you think about something physical. Something tangible you can touch with your hand.
So picture this: you’re a big fat hen. Got this in mind? Okay. You’re a big fat hen and you’re laying eggs CONSTANTLY. All the time. Everything you do, BOOM! Egg. These eggs are your data. Each egg tells a story: where you were, what you were thinking, how you were feeling, what you were looking at, what you were listening to, and on and on.
Hold on, I forgot to mention you’re a big fat hen in a giant cage. The cage is so big you don’t really realize you’re in a cage, but you are. And your eggs are being farmed and sold. By Mark Zuckerberg (and a bunch of others just like him).
So here you are, a big fat hen in a big caged-off world, and you’re dumping out eggs at the same impressive rate that Pac-Man munches those yellow dots.
Mark is then selling all these eggs to folks with some killer technology. They can look at the genetic structure of the eggs and learn all those things about you that I mentioned before. After looking at a bunch of eggs, they can notice patterns.
The 10 p.m. eggs have some DNA that indicates you’re more susceptible to opening up your wallet at that time. You feel a bit nostalgic. Perfect. YouTube: queue up the AC/DC. Engage advertisements. Mmmm. Wendy’s. Baconator. Uh-huh. Yup, yes. Uh-huh. I want that.
So you (still a big fat hen), dropped out a bunch of eggs which were harvested by Mark Zuckerberg. He then sold the eggs to a bunch of folks with some killer analytical technology and they learned quite a few things about you.
Enough so that they know when, where, and how to get you to buy that Baconator. And now we know why you’re so fat, you big fat hen. It’s okay. It’s not your fault. The cage is designed to make you fat, but now you know you’re in one.
Now you know your eggs are being taken from you. You know your car is being leased out without you even knowing.
Whether you picture your data as a car or a bunch of eggs, the fact still remains: your data is physical. You can own it. And you should! It’s yours.
Except for that you don’t. You give it away. Essentially for free. And now a bunch of companies and governments know more about you than YOU know about you. And you’re cool with it. You’re not “doing anything wrong.” You’re indifferent. You’ve got ‘nothin’ to hide.” And that’s what they’re counting on.
There’s a fox guarding the hen house. There’s a stalker underneath the blanket in the backseat.
Your data is being bought and sold and used to influence your decision-making. And you’re not getting paid for it.