It’s cool to hate on Facebook, but did you know just how awful they really are? Not just Facebook, too—all the platforms you rely on do terrible, evil things with your data, your privacy, and even your health.
Facebook created a system based on exploiting the worst instincts of our society. It rewards divisive, even hateful, content because the platform is built to reward “engagement.” Millions of Americans fighting to “own the libs” qualifies as engagement apparently. They don’t care about the harm it does, they care that it gives them data for targeting ads.
These platforms are designed to be addictive, compelling you to constantly check and interact (which in itself is unethical). When you throw all the terrible stuff they do with your data into the mix, there’s no choice but to see them as outright dangerous.
“Oh yeah, Dave? Like what exactly?” Glad you asked.
Let’s start small. They use the microphone on your phone to listen in on your very boring life to target you with ads. Want to test it out? Try talking about “cat food” a lot (best if you don’t even own a cat) and see what happens. What’s that crap? Those are private conversations! Don’t worry, they also reading through your private messages on the messenger platform.
Let’s not cut Google any slack here either. Can anyone guess why they would go through all the trouble to develop a very sophisticated email service like Gmail, only to give away for free? DING DING DING! Because they’re reading your email to sell ads, dummy! I’ll wait for you to think about the emails you’ve sent that you don’t want people reading, let alone using the content to start showing you incriminating ads.
This is what tech companies have done for years. Let’s talk about what they’re about to start doing.
Facebook is going to start processing your personal photos, scanning them with AI, and allowing advertisers to use them in their ads. Imagine you post a photo with a visible Starbucks cup (like on the set of Game of Thrones). Starbucks can use that image in an ad shown to your friends as social proof that Starbucks is good and all their friends drink it. Now let’s pretend the advertiser is something more, ahem, personal.
What about things that personally identify you? No, not facial recognition. That’s baby stuff you noob. I’m talking about much less obvious ways to track you. Did you know the way you hold your phone and use your computer mouse are as unique to you as your fingerprint? Tech companies can use this information to identify if it’s really you holding your phone or not.
“But Dave, this seems like a more secure way to lock unwanted users out of my device!” Maybe, but those same movements can also detect markers for things like Alzheimer’s disease. Now tech companies have some data on you that you may not even have about yourself yet. Guess what motivates them—that’s right, money. So who would want to know that data? I’ll give you a hint—it ain’t your doctor. It’s your insurance company, which can deny you medical coverage for a disease you didn’t even know you had.
Boom. I just blew your mind.
This list goes on, but I’m already fearful they’re reading this draft on my computer to target me for “Thoughtcrime,” so I’ll be headed to a cabin in the woods, wearing my tinfoil hat, and not taking my iPhone.
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Dave Skorepa is Chief Creative Officer at Aztek Web in Cleveland, Ohio.