A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
OMG, the sky is falling! Citizens, run for your lives! SAVE YOURSELVES!
This moment of panic was brought to you by Mark Zuckerberg and the good folks down at Facebook. Apparently, those fun-loving scamps in Menlo Park, CA have been slackin’ off in the I’ve-Got-Your-Back department and allowed another company, Cambridge Analytica, to harvest personal data from a bunch of unsuspecting Facebook users. Actually, “a bunch” is a bit of an understatement; the real numbers are north of 50 million. Wow! This is a serious no-no, and I have the feeling “my bad!” isn’t going to cover it. (Although it looks like Zuckerberg is giving it the good ol’ Harvard try.)
I’ll grant you that this sordid bit of business looks remarkably like some faceless corporate somebody is peeking in the bedroom window, but let’s not get all lynch mob crazy just yet. There are a few things we have to consider.
One — Unless you’ve been living on one of the moons of Uranus for the last 30 years, you know that the Internet is kinda like Santa Claus:
It sees you when you’re sleeping
It knows when you’re awake
It knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Cyberspace is not a vacuum, and every computer click that happens there is going somewhere. Only children and the hopelessly uniformed believe the Internet is a private party.
Two — The people who are suddenly swimming in a sea of indignation over their invaded private parts are the same ones who’ve been posting their lives away on social media. Honestly, if you’re telling the entire world everything about yourself — from your college Beer Pong championship to what you had for lunch at Olive Garden — you don’t have a lot of room to complain. There’s such a thing as due diligence.
Three — Right now, Facebook might be the Big Bogeyman (Bogeyperson?) but they’re not the only ones collecting your private information. Literally everything, in the 21st century, is selling you out to Cyberspace — from your Smart phone and its GPS tracker to that Rewards Card in your wallet that offers up your buying habits every time you swipe it. At any given moment, some Internet minion somewhere can probably pull up a profile and tell you what size underwear you’re wearing and where and when you bought it.
But finally — So what? Like it or not, we all know privacy has always been a movable feast. Anybody who grew up in a small town will tell you that. Personally, I’m not too pleased my preference in intimate apparel is getting harvested by 1,001 data management companies across the world, but my alternatives are limited. I can a) sit around and bitch about it or b) pull the plug on my digital world and walk away.
So far, I’m not prepared to do either one.