What if ?
Well, I am not saying what you’re about to read is the truth – one must keep in mind that black or white arguments are always reductive and simplistic – but what if the big tech companies have no interest in guaranteeing your security? Even more, what if they are benefiting from your lack of privacy and from the recent increase of hacks?
Internet is a huge thing based on an exponential number of stakeholders. Among them, you, the casual users are the main player in the game. You are the key to the system. Without you, the internet would be a private and contained network between professionals, exactly how it was at its beginnings: an interconnection of hosts allowing efficient numerical communication between (mostly) universities.
Now Internet has overtaken the world. Everything is part of it, even your fridge, your baby webcam, and your TV.
What does it mean?! It implies that you are a node of the network and your usage benefits other players. For example, you rent access from your ISP that relies on other national and international infrastructures that requires maintenance and upgrades… Anyway, your data is crossing the whole planet and is transiting (directly or indirectly) through many companies.
These companies rely on marketing research to adjust their offer to their customers and eventually to you, the final user. Because remember, without you, they wouldn’t exist. Therefore they require to stimulate a demand to grow. Thus they must know your needs and how to influence them. And it is exactly how your data enter the game. From your data, these companies can extract your personality and use it to stimulate a will.
At this point, it is easy to understand that by protecting your data, they would cut themselves from this huge source of benefits. Because with raw or sorted data they can sell, analyze, sell the analysis, or just sorted databases, anonymously, recreate fictional or real personalities by crossing the databases and most of them sell advertising spaces based on the data collected and the preferences of their users… As information is a constant flow, they can do it indefinitely!
Many agencies are willing to buy or trade this new commodity. From black to gray to “ethical” data markets, this new product is sourced in different ways. For example, big tech companies can sell them and it is traded officially, or it can be bought on the dark web from hackers: the more precise and personal the better!
These agencies buy and resell databases to big companies that use them for their marketing research. For example, a full medical file can cost from 200-300USD on the dark web; pharmaceutical and assurances corporations just love them.
Let’s stop here. This is a long list and I don’t want to trouble your sleep. Just keep in mind that this new high-value commodity (Facebook has roughly 95% of revenue from it) is and will be the key to the new economy’s business models.
However, information is the pillar of our free speech and democracy. Protecting free access to the web should be on the lips of every tech companies’ CEO; putting users at the center shouldn’t be an argument to use us.
What if all you’ve just read is a picture of our current tech-invaded world? What if we are at the edge of a numerical deep revolution that will radically change the way we interact?
Please, prove me wrong; I will be delighted to admit my mistakes. But unfortunately, the recent privacy scandals seem to warn us against a terrible truth: we are not the users anymore. We are the products of a cold machine.
You don’t like this future ? The cosmic revolution starts here. Be part of the wave. We need you to save the world.
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Available freely at (kudos to the authors): https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.34.2.192
Aten, J. (2021). Apple Just Traded Your Privacy for $15 Billion. [online] Inc.com. Available at: https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/apple-just-traded-your-privacy-for-15-billion.html.