For those wholly
preoccupied in the self-immolation of Australia's test cricket team,
this weekend saw an acceleration of the revelations about Facebook,
Cambridge Analytica, and the continued erosion of our privacy.
Facebook, it seems, had
been recording his call and messaging metadata - even though he
wasn't using the Facebook app to make calls or send text messages.
(George Brandis would be proud!)
Their Android operating system - powering around 90% of the smartphones ever manufactured - has so many security holes and workarounds that it's a data gatherer's paradise. That's not really surprising, given Google's business model: monetizing all of the data we freely shed. It's never been in Google's economic interest to lock down Android.
Throttling its data
capture would starve the beast.
management thought all of this was not just OK, but a welcome
extension of Facebook's stated mission of 'helping the world to
share'. Now it seems Facebook has been helping itself to the world's
In The Last Days of Reality (Meanjin, December 2017) I asked that question and pointed - somewhat feebly - to a few approaches that might start to build a beachhead of data autonomy away from the increasing profiling of surveillance capitalism.
It's become clear that
this is easier said than done. Even if the EU or other territory
banned Facebook completely (as China does today), data profiling
would continue - at the supermarket checkout, every time you tap
your credit card, with every search term typed into a search engine
offered up 'freely' by Google.
But we do not have a technology problem.
All of these problems were created by the clever use of technologies to achieve ends well beyond those imagined by the users of those technologies.
There is no technology
that can not be perverted to serve the ends of those who place their
own goals above the common good. It's our karma that has landed us
here, not our toys.
That phrasing makes it
sound as though the subjects of this experiment - all of us - live
in a world apart from the effects of that amplification. It's more
like setting a building on fire while living inside of it.
Once safely outside, we confront a greater challenge: