“Committed to Protecting Your Privacy” is the Biggest Scam of the 21st Century
- Joshua M Brown
- April 8th, 2012
I'm not a web developer. I don't write code, I don't make apps, I don't create and run CPM marketing campaigns or build things in MySQL or whatever else. But I'm street smart times ten and I know exactly what you really mean no matter how you say it to me.
And when a company, in defending the privacy settings of its site or apps or platform, makes the following statement: "We are committed to protecting your privacy," I know what they really mean.
Which is this:
"We are committed to winning the User Generated Data Arms Race by any means possible, our marketing proposition to big-spending advertisers will be cat nip when we show them just how incredibly targeted we can get.
"We are collecting and slicing and dicing as much data on you and everyone you communicate with and every site you interface with and every service you spend time using as quickly and as comprehensively as we can.
"We are in the business of privacy setting arbitrage, we are giving you so many options and buttons and levers that it is a virtual certainty you will leave a door slightly ajar or a window unlocked somewhere along the line - and because we are the providers of the security system itself, the ease with which we can violate your intent toward privacy is hilarious.
Some of this data we are using in-house to improve our chances of keeping you engaged, some of it we are using to find ways to sell things to you. Some of it we are selling to third parties as per the terms and conditions in the 6000-word disclaimer everyone "checked" but no one actually read. And some of your data we are storing for a later date when we figure out what it might be useful for.
"And when we say data - we have pictures of you and your friends and family and kids. We know where you go on vacation, what political leanings you have, who you pray to, what size clothing you wear, what you read, which foods you like and what kind of shit you buy at 2 in the morning from an iPad. We know the movies you rent, the music you download and we can triangulate your purchases to determine when you might have a baby, get married or quit your job.
"And if we can't monetize this stuff, you're goddamn right we'll find someone who can. Our millions of subs are warm bodies to be harvested and advertised to, if we could find a way to stick a cookie up your ass, believe us, we would do it. Keep clicking."
That's what they really mean by "committed to protecting your privacy." The justification they'll use is that all of this data is being pored over and resold in the aggregate so it never gets truly personal. Which is bullshit, they just haven't created the code that will algorithmically abuse our privacy on a one-on-one, hyper-detailed level yet. Rest assured, they're working around the clock to get to that point - the funding and the "exit" pretty much counts on it.
Happy Easter, my fellow eggs.
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The Reformed Broker is a blog about financial markets and the economy. Joshua Brown is a New York City-based investment advisor for high net worth individuals, charitable foundations, retirement plans and corporations... More.