About surveillance and social media

There has already been several discussions about the problems with social media, both in my articles on Google and Facebook, and on the rest of the internet. This is Mrwhosetheboss’ video on why he is ‘worried about humanity’s future’, and is a very good video which describes the most well-known issues with social media very clearly and easily. Any attempt from my side to write all that is wrong with social media would be a waste as it has already been made so well. Please watch it before reading the rest of this article. What follows are my thoughts not just about that video, but about social media, and its aspect of social surveillance.

It is very sad that it is so difficult in modern society to be free of surveillance by such tech giants. The right to privacy is something I would want to be considered to be a fundamental right of every person, regardless of whether they are tech-savvy or someone who can barely use phones, but society seems to be moving backwards in this case. Governments seemingly don’t care that a foreign company has more power on its citizens than themselves, and are completely misusing this power.  If you have seen the Social Dilemma, you know what I am talking about. In case you haven’t, social media giants – especially Facebook – essentially does mind control by showing you stuff you like if you do a particular thing. It tracks things you are interested in and shows you ads related to it, so that you buy things they want you to, earning them revenue. This is why they are designed to be so addictive – they want you to spend as much time as possible looking at ads and spending your money.

Worse, when governments do decide to interrogate such companies, the job for this is given to tech-illiterate senators and parliamentarians, and not specialists who actually know what the heck it is that these companies are doing wrong. You can’t expect someone who doesn’t know what these platforms are beyond slogans like “connect and share with the people in your life” to know about online privacy, surveillance, trackers, cookies, FLoC, fingerprinting etc. – and that is not what we elected them to do (I say we, but I am not even eligible to vote yet, but you know what I mean.) What we do expect of them is to admit that they don’t understand these problems and get people who are experienced in this field to look into it.

Even more saddening is that things like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google et al. have become so very tightly integrated into our societal structure that instead of complementing our social interactions in the offline world, the online world is where humans now form society.

Which brings me neatly onto my thoughts on the ’echo chambers’ mentioned in the video. Social media has made it such that discussions about the problems of social media, privacy issues, all are restricted to their own echo chamber. No one who is actually the victim of this – social media addicts, extreme {right|left} wingers etc. – usually come to know about this. It always amuses me how most of the 2.8 billion people using Facebook and a probably larger number of people using Google never stop to think, “hmm, why is a foreign company offering me free services and yet earning far the more than every other company on the Earth?” These people will never know about what is social media surveillance, how they are being tracked day in and day out in a multitude of ways, or how companies are making money off of making them buying specific stuff – and they won’t care.

These companies are currently using the tiniest fraction of their power on the human brain, and yet they are the subject of controversy. The day Google charges for an account, the economy will severely become unbalanced as all the money starts pouring into one single company. The day Facebook starts making people like specific ideas instead of the quality of a specific company’s products, we’re done for.

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