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Social media,  framed by Facebook, is front stage on the privacy debate again. Money vs our personal data. Which is ironic.  Americans as a culture, legally sell everything except their own body parts. Senators like  Ron Wyden (OR.Dem) have been sloughing in about Section 230 (The Communications Decency Act) and a need to “starve Facebook out of the data that fuels its predatory behaviour”.  It all sounds great trumped from a political pulpit. The devil is always in the details.

Much as we may enjoy vilifying  Facebook, it is not the principal disease.  It is, however, one of the symptoms of a capitalist business model gone -viral. The real questions begin with, what Is personal privacy?  And, how do we, as Americans understand and, define it?

Who owns, “us” via our personal data and access to our personal interests and lives follows our understanding of what is “ours alone” vs “public domain”.  What responsibility do we, the public bear for all our “sharing” and “liking”?   We are all now, fully aware that anything posted on social media can spread across several platforms and go,  viral.

Social media, like Facebook, happily targets us based on our “likes” and “follows”.   This is the grey public arena that marketers access to buy and sell our information. The American attitude towards personal data bears an eerie resemblance to a virtual slave market. It supports and encourages accessory businesses on multiple fronts.  Compliance companies, software, security, biometrics and yes, even more marketing. Predatory industries multiplying through your personal data. Keeping you, safe…

Despite internal documents that whistle-blower Frances Haugen documents recently leaked,  Facebook stocks jumped up. Facebook is not the head of the Hydra. Fear is.  The greatest political and marketing profit margin kicker out there today.  We destroyed real education and with it the ability to research and ask questions. It’s all too “hard” and “overwhelming”. So much easier to – follow.

The recent brief outrage gave Congress some air time and merely illustrated how twisted our relationship with the social media platform is.  We might dream of divorce,  but currently, there are no other options in the “dating” pool.  In a virtual world, our relationship with Facebook and all social media takes on the aspect of an abusive relationship we are afraid to leave.  Many have tried, only to return from a world that lacks alternatives. And, all our “friends” are there…

In a recent press release, Facebook chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer revealed updated plans to connect a billion more people around the globe.  A 240fiber transatlantic cable high-speed internet system that would streamline connections between the US and Europe.

FB Executive Dan Rabinovitsj  noted  that “Almost half of the world still lacks internet access, and affordability is the primary reason for this digital divide, especially in countries where affordability means providing internet access for less than a dollar per day.”

Multiply that dollar-a-day by billions of people. That = billions of $$$. Pure profit and billions of petabytes of more data.  Hence that jump in Facebook stock. Welcome to the real world of virtually unlimited profits.

Facebook is not alone in developing breakthrough internet technologies. Their Terragraph plan includes three layers of internet infrastructure: the subsea cables and Bombyx robot combination and,  (using the 802.11ay standard established by the Wi-Fi Alliance), a new technology reference design, developed with Qualcomm. The system envisions a  mesh Wi-Fi web using nodes on already existing streets. The goal is for multi-gigabit speeds matching the current speeds of fibre lines, transmitted over the air.  Data transfer faster than ever before.

Amazon and SpaceX are equally busy investing billions in low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. These systems could provide internet access through a “constellation” style of thousands of satellites. Our new world order is not a singular government- it is a collective of corporations who access and own every detail of your life.  And, keep you – safe.

Employee management was hard in pre-pandemic offices. People could simply vanish during breaks or off-hours. This created complications for the growing HR industry.  One of the biggest, least secure personal data gathering operations in the business world. Despite laws, they continue asking personal questions during and after the hiring process. Under the minority/equality mission questions about race, age, physical health has become acceptable and standardized. Additionally,  personal employee data and resumes are input into CRM systems and shared out internally and externally.

Remote working kick-started an entire industry developed to spy on employees at home. Zoom meetings, team chats; we are losing the ability to have private conversations. But, I hear you say; we still have “free speech”. Do we?  Facebook is deleting “unacceptable” accounts.  Twitter users are shut down if they violate “rules”. As we accept the yoke of corporate and government monitoring we begin our own adaptations of “correct”  self-monitoring behaviours and conversations. Unconsciously, this process is the foundation of our dividing politics. We are being silenced. Keystroke by keystroke.

We are being wooed by the ultimate version of a techie romantic dinner. Drunk on the wine of convenience and a perception of safety. Is it too late to send it back to the kitchen despite feeling vaguely sick? Can we afford to pay the personal and social costs of the convenience of inter-connected databases across the world?

All of our lives and data.  Private and public. All the minutia of society, collected. Stored. Our lives, like library books, waiting to be checked out by any curious reader.

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Karin vonKrenner
Karin vonKrennerhttps://kvkrenner.com/
Karin vonKrenner is a journalist and photographer. She has worked globally for over 20 years, in times of peace and conflict. Karin directs her pen and lens to document the contrasting narratives of the human experience. Her work invites you to engage the world from new perspectives.

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2 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Thanks Jim for your insightful commentary. Yes, responsibility is key. And, it is ours to claim. We can lay the blame on a generational system of de-education, consumerism and and an out-of-control marketing regurgitation machine. But, in the end, we are the “power-source” that keeps the battery charged. The proverbial New World Order is dis-information to herd and control. If we lack the incentive to do our own research, fact-checking and “un-following” we bear equal blame for the current situation. Interestingly China recently instituted laws to limit children’s access to social media and gaming sites. Ironic that what may be perceived in the West as a controlling of freedoms, may, be actually freeing their younger population from the falsness that pervades social media. Topsy turvy world indeed. We, in the West seem to now value abuse as a form of “freedom”.

  2. Hi Karin: There is not a single line in the piece that anyone with two brain cells to rub together would disagree with. But at some point, somewhere in the great mass of social media junkies, someone has to take some responsibility for creating this overabundance of the hopelessly addicted. For example, where are the parents of all the children who make up a good chunk of the social media population? Where are the high sccool educators and courses on the dangers of social media addiction? Where is the infrastructure that should be in place to help people with their problem and get them unhooked? It seems that this is a massive societal problem with no societal solution anywhere in sight. I have written about this a lot in the past. And will continue, as I’m sure you will, but until there is some sort of regulation of these businesses in place, all we are doing is firing shots into the ether, winging relatively few people. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have the capital to buy the politicians to fight the proposed laws that regulate them. And you are dead right about it being capitalism run amok. The bigger issue is around which governments are going to take these behemoths on? Or is there even the political will to do that?

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