A case against online privacy

Privacy on the Internet is a flaring debate. Given how Facebook keeps flirting with user data and ISPs tracking users' Internet surfing, there is no privacy on the Internet.
Written by Manan Kakkar, Contributor

The world went crazy with privacy concerns last month over news about Facebook tracking users even after they logged out was made. (It has to do with cookies.)  Oh how the private lives were being spied on by Mark Zuckerberg caved in a bunker with the rest of the Facebook employees monitoring and tracking every Facebook user much like Lucius Fox and Batman; only to sell this data to scamming advertisers and pesky telemarketers who want to sell every married guy a pair of lingerie for he searched about what women like or the telemarketer from Bangladesh who will keep calling you to buy a plastic squeeze to fart cow since you played Farmville. Oh how dare you Zuckerberg?!

Then Jeff Bezos unveiled Amazon Silk -- the browser that will predict your next click based on what other users clicked. I knew that Bezos had evil plans with that Amazon Kindle. He even looks like Lex Luthor, I knew it! He was up to no good. Privacy Jeff! Privacy! I don’t want you to know that I will click on the nude Lindsay Lohan link after reading about her recent kerfuffle on TMZ’s website. RESPECT MY PRIVACY AMAZON!

Of course all this privacy noise comes with no explanation as to what’s wrong if Amazon tries to study what their users are doing on the Internet. Here’s what happens if Facebook, Amazon, Bing, Google study user behavior:

  • Tailored search results
  • Better browsing experience

The computer finally does what it’s supposed to—start helping you in everyday life. Then there is the advertiser argument. If I read about men’s fashion on Facebook, the ads lead me some great websites like PRIVE or Gilt. They show me stuff that I might buy instead of emoticons to download. I’ve found and bought stuff through Facebook’s tailored ads. Another argument is Facebook making money through my data. "O. M. G. Zucky, u r rUDe!"

So essentially, these guys want Facebook to keep offering uninterrupted cloud storage and a medium to communicate for free and not make any money to maintain/run the service. Fair enough, dumb people exist. Let’s put this in perspective: Facebook collects user data to study user behavior then shares this data with advertisers who then show you with results that might be relevant and useful to you. For argument’s sake this unethical and Facebook says we’ll start charging users monthly subscription fees. This model will fail since there is an entry barrier and less users will be willing to use the service. This destroys the whole social aspect of Facebook since less of my friends and their friends will be on Facebook—everybody loses.

I understand privacy concerns but what I can’t rationalize is what is wrong with Facebook or Amazon tracking me. They’re doing so to:

  • make money
  • (as a side effect) provide me some value

Compared to ISPs who know everything I do, store this data for 7 years and willing share this data with cops or cap my Internet speeds if I download too much? Let’s see:

  • service that knows what I do and provides me a better experience
  • service that won’t tell me I’m being tracked, share this data with the cops and provide me NO benefit

I wonder who’s more dangerous. From all the social media privacy rhetoric, it’s clear that an opt-in service or an opt-out option makes people more comfortable about sharing information which isn’t private in the first place. But the power suggestion and perception is strong. Also, please cut the crap with all the privacy BS since clearly there is no downside unless citizens of India, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan keep feeding American servers through networks like Facebook/Twitter only so that this data can be used by the CIA to study the country and fly unmanned drones to attack.

Taking cue from The Matrix, I'll put this way: If you're on the Internet... there is no privacy.

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