It's all about privacy. Until you understand how it works.


Friends are pinging me over Whatsapp to ask if it is safe to stay on it. I have already expressed my opinions on the matter on this blog when it comes to privacy and security. Let me summarize that for you and repeat after me:

  1. You can't have optimal privacy with companies that offer you free services.
    • e.g., the big elephant in the room Facebook and a zillion of other services that do very well for their shareholders
  2. You don't have THE best privacy now with paid services
    • e.g., telecoms, credit card companies, banks
  3. Your understanding of what privacy is in this hyper-digital era might be wrong. To begin with,
    • you share a piece of pregnancy news with your friend, s/he doesn't post it anywhere (that you know), but she hands the phone over to your worst enemy on the galaxy, s/he going to tell all about to their friends. Privacy? Yep...that's what I thought.
Don't leave WhatsApp or whatever pleases you to use today. What Facebook, the company that bought for gazillions WhatsApp (to make money?) is not doing anything that any other company that offers free/services already does. Simply because they are huge and don't sell you electricity (yet...), the news tick you off. They are not invasive, it is your understanding of what you hear and read that is making you itching.

WhatsApp is going to use some of the data that you generate when you talk to a business (registered business between Facebook and Whatsapp) and sharpening their ads skills using (cumulative) their ads business. 

To run a business takes money. To run a huge business takes investors, and when you have investors, the company has owners. And those tend to bitch and moan big time when they don't get fat dividend checks. So to make a load shit of ad money they need to extend their reach and relevance every 3 years. Telecoms companies have done this since they were created. You never complained, because you didn't know or their font 4 privacy pamphlet. And because you needed the phone more than a happiness blood transfusion. Facebook now is your blood and that you like it or not there's anyone better and more reactive than them.

I know that you understand that to make money you need money. But you don't, really. At least until is your skin on the grill. Let me show you how to put your skin on the grill. You're gonna love the smell.

Let's do a deep dive

To understand why companies that offer free services need to access some of your data and figure out how to monetize it without (regularly?) breaking the rule of law about privacy, we need to understand how server operations work. Bare with me, I can guarantee you no one is going to explain this to you in a way that will educate you and your friends for years to come.

Say that you have your brother who lives in the United States of America and has cable news. You want to watch the news he records every night on his personal network storage (a hard drive connected to the wifi...). He has good Internet with a fast upload. You connect from your home and play the news. You are a happy camper.

To that, your brother already has a good setup of $1,000, including the Internet bill. You pitch in some chi-chin to support the cost; after a few weeks though the server doesn't seem to be handling his family well, and you leech from the remote. So together you invest in a better computer and an even faster Internet. All of a sudden, you are looking at a ballooned price of $5,000.

You want to free yourself of some of that burden, so you tell your friend Marta-The-Cheap-Bastard if she wants to join this secret Kabal of watching (stealing?) news from the bro's service. She joins and naturally because family is not considered sharing with others... her brother, cousin, and 3 generations down uncle join behind the scene the wonderful US news service. Admittedly watching American democrazy unfolding is newsworthy... at this point, the whole thing is sluggish at best. But you can't kick others out because they paid part of the wonderful service. 

You play the patient for a while, but then you burst and point out that Marta has been abusing the service she got hooked on watching Donald Dump destroying and dividing America, so she proposes to pitch in x2 the money she did before. You and your brother now see an opportunity to make this a business. Ignoring the fact that the license agreement of the cable company forbids you to do what you are doing but who cares. Startups are scrappy by design :-)

So your brother hires a part-time super (crappy?) developer, buys a new computer, a super-duper Internet connection, and place ads on the player all those people use to watch his recorded news.

All told, we're now looking at a $15,000 investment. The service is expanded to a few new friends so that those ads can offload some costs and make the whole business worth it. All people watching overseas are not complaining about the ads. They get why you are doing it. They complain that the ads are not relevant to them. Presenting baby shampoo ads to Marta's brother Antonio-De-La-Tarda that is bald like a bowling ball, isn't that great... admittedly!

At this point, your brother hires a friend that is studying communication from the local university, a random shmock that knows something about running ads, and they don't want shares of a company that runs under a 1 bedroom apartment desk. So the whole operation now cost $30,000
 
To make the ads super relevant, the new guy has to know what your friends and family are watching and when. No biggie. It's just news. At some point, an ad about a pregnancy test is shown because based on what someone has been watching, the mega guru part-time hire has discovered that someone might have a ban in the making even if she's just 17!

She is livid with your brother because there's no way that she's pregnant and find this INVASION OF PRIVACY, is outrageous. When the father of that girl finds out, everyone calms down because the ALGORITHM WAS RIGHT. She was, indeed, pregnant.

At this point, your brother is all in. He quits his job, pumps more money into the business a and moves everything into the cloud. He runs the number and believes he can do it. He calls his company FaceNews
The service is a smashing success, as it turns out he makes very good money just with the ads, so to make, even more, he makes the service FREE, and the new communication law undergrad part-time scrappy employee makes a privacy statement for this newborn company. The agreement is splashed in the face the day someone creates a new account. Nobody reads it, and nobody cares. It even has typos inside, and no one notices it.

At this point, your brother wants to offer another service while people watching this awesome news from America. Pop-corn on demand. Which they are sold by another company, WazUPoppies, which delivers free of charge anywhere in the world! To do so, he needs to know whether or not the audience has some allergies. He asks the questions, but nobody replies or responds to the survey. So the ultra guru ads part-time scientist dude comes up with a way of cross-referencing what else the audience is watching and clicking on another site while your news player still going. 

Poppies

Everyone is super happy! The business is booming. Now it's time to take it to the next level. Hiring more people, renting an under ocean fiber-optic Internet cable. 


At this point, the cost has ballooned so much that just selling poppies doesn't cut it. More services have to be added, and more information is necessary about the users in order to make sure that they keep clicking on those ads. Because if people don't click and buy on the ads, that is not going to keep the company around much longer. So more deals of the Poppies alike are done. The once undergrad law scrappy girl now is a mega lawyer that charges a lung and a leg to do her shotty work. She updates the privacy and terms where EVERYTHING is explained, but no one cared to read or complain because everyone loves the FREE service.

With money and fame comes oversight, and now all of a sudden, after years of silence and user growth, off the roof, people feel entitled to complain and threaten to leave. Some do leave, but some come back because of saying, "I have nothing to hide." All this happening while new users come in because they didn't get the memo yet.

So what started with a playful way of reading the news is now a mega cookie monster of valuable content, a great way to spend time with friends AND POPPIES! And the love-hate relationship begins, and so the fear monger that the FaceNews company owes you something.

Just like in a marriage. To have sex, the other person has to agree that you earned it. You don't have to be married to have sex, but you definitely need someone in addition to yourself. And that you like it or not your relationship with FaceNews, is a marriage. If you don't play your part, you don't play at all.

With your participation for all these years in the company, dragging more of your friends, spending money (directly or not) through the company. Closing deals and reaching out to other businesses through FaceNews products, you fostered the fact this marriage was working. 

Now you are getting older and wiser, all of a sudden, the chick that looks hotter and more relaxed (Signal, Telegram) seems to be a better option than you saggy spouse FaceNews. You want to divorce from FaceNews, but then you realize that divorce is a shitstorm no matter how you approach it. If I hadn't divorced, I would have retired by now, so trust me, they are not worth it.

So you jump ship, and you take over another service, which right now, as appealing as it seems it won't have YOUR FRIENDS over it, it won't have all the fancy conveniences you had grown to know and rely on so well for years. So you try, you push others to use the service along with your personal privacy pitch. Even if you have no clue of what you are talking about; unfortunately it is not working.

Instagram is fine. Credit Cards, Telecoms, and even your bank; they all do the same identical thing that FaceNews does (and also through FaceNews!!), but when it comes to what the news are talking about it is a big NO. That is not good. Even if it is the same old soup.

If you want your privacy and in a way that pleases you:
  1. Pay for the service
  2. Hire someone to read and explain to you the privacy statement
  3. So that you can express your anger for that paid service to make changes to the privacy and terms accordingly to what meets your standards
  4. Now pay a higher cost as they have less opportunity to market and invest in new features.
Good luck with that.

Free doesn't mean you don't pay. Free means you use a different currency than dollar$ to pay for what you get. That currency is called refined, targetable data. It's your data, and the one and zeros of other people like that allow any company out there that makes money with refined experiences; based on what you like and do that has the same value for a vampire thirst drawn by blood.

You have the power to stop this privacy outrage. By simply stopping using the service for good. Not just for a little while or keeping the account dormant. Delete your account

I have trust that you will do that, en masse... Sure... I can see you are rushing to do it, right now....
Of wait, that would be violating your privacy, you know watching you :-)

Exactly like my friend Jonathan sings. Listen to the lyrics, particularly at the end. You will be on the same band wave at that point :-). - But you won't.


Stay Donald Dump free. Your privacy is in your control. 

What you need to change is your approach in demanding more rigorous privacy options. Better privacy defaults rather than options that require you to be a pilot expert in privacy. Better laws not sponsored by senators that take money from lobbyist paid by those services you want to act on your privacy. And leaving those services will only make companies smarter to sweet the bad pill. And at that point, it is all FaceNews again!

;mE Out.



Comments

  1. Man! You opened my eyes. Besides being very entertaining, I actually never realized none of what you shared. My wife is looking over our AT/T privacy statement and three pages down to a shit load of legalese sure enough you are dead on right!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. appreciate the feedback - it is indeed something with years to come will improve but it requires people to react at the need and not at the news in need of click baits.

      Delete
  2. wow. All I can say wow. I feel weak all of the sudden.

    ReplyDelete

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