[every move you make, every step you take, i’ll be watching you]
Whenever I bring up the topic of Internet privacy to someone, I usually get the same response:
“I have nothing to hide.”
So I immediately ask the person: “What’s your annual salary?”
At which point we both discover there’s something to hide.
But most people don’t feel it’s important enough to maintain privacy when you consider the “free” goodies you can get on the Internet. Like launching birds with elastics to land on pigs. What. Wait a minute. You haven’t played the game in a while?
Doesn’t matter. They still have your data from when you downloaded the app.
Perhaps, however, you were clever and decided not to participate in the digital social network.
Doesn’t matter. They still have your data from when your friends downloaded the app.
That’s right. Most companies begin building their digital profile of you by simply asking your friends or, more exactly, your friends’ contact lists. This includes the obvious snooping companies (like Facebook and LinkedIn) but also the not so obviously snooping companies (like Snapchat and Waze).
Did you consent to your info being handed out by your friends?
Of course, not. Then again, Google Grand Poo-Bah Eric Schmidt has told us that
Which translates from rich-speak as roughly “Fuck you, peasant.” Emphasis on “fuck” in the unpleasant sense. (Never mind that Schmidt is a hypocrite first-class who has tried to have his own records – and affairs – scrubbed off the Internet.)
So corporations are slowly training us peasants. They are training us to use “free” email services which are regularly perused and read by corporate employees. They are training us that spying is a natural part of the Internet. They are training us to put more and more of our data not on our own devices but in their cloud. You know, the “safe” cloud that can only be hacked when pictures of naked women are involved. (Ever wonder why smart phones and tablets have so little onboard memory? Kinda encourages you to put stuff on the cloud, doesn’t it?)
Basically, corporations are training us that modern people have no right to expect privacy.
But, according to the United States Supreme Court, corporations are people, too.
Which brings us to Sony, that “person” who recently got hacked. Among things that got leaked to a third-party? Well, the usual stuff that corporations yank from the peasants:
- The equivalent of a “contact list” – a lot of employee data.
- Digital stacks of email.
- And, oh yes, salaries. (Always with the salaries.)
Now remember that when you download an app by the Sony Corporation, you give Sony permission to do a lot of things. Such as look at your contact list or text messages (actions that involve people who have nothing to do with downloading the app and have not given their consent to Sony for anything). Of course, person Sony (just like person Eric Schmidt) has no difficulty in telling you not to expect privacy. Or, to paraphrase Eric Schmidt: “Don’t connect to the Internet if you don’t want to risk your privacy.” (Why isn’t he saying something like that to person Sony?)
Welcome to Personhood, Sony. You wanted it, you got it. I know how sucky it feels to be violated by some third-party simply because we are, more or less, forced to participate in digital society today.
After all, you’ve done it to me, Sony. And I haven’t even downloaded any of your apps.
But, I get it. Like any of the super-rich, a corporate person’s reach is vast and there are plenty more societal consequences than when a peasant is violated. For example, theaters naturally wanted to avoid an opening day like The Dark Knight Rises. As a result, they decided to take the hackers’ threats of physical violence seriously and not screen the Sony film, The Interview. This left Sony in a bind: their business model requires that a certain number of theaters show the film. Without those theaters, the business model falls apart anyway, so Sony decided to cancel the theatrical release.
Enter now the faux-brave keyboard “patriots” who are crying about this cancellation. Their basic argument: a cross between “America caved!” and “Freedom of Speech!”
America didn’t cave. America did nothing. Sony made a decision. A business decision. Sony is a corporation, a person (says the Supreme Court). It’s not America. It’s not a country. Hell, Sony is not even headquartered in a single country. It’s a multinational (a citizen of the world, perhaps?).
And “freedom of speech”? Just as the right-wing went berserk over
French Freedom Fries 11 years earlier, the left-wing is presently going berserk about how Hollywood is censoring itself. As if the left-wing had never heard of the Hays Office or the arbitrariness of the MPAA system. Actor George Clooney gripes about not getting anyone to co-sign his petition. Writer Aaron Sorkin wants the unions to get involved and support its exposed members. And on my Facebook feed, I see plenty of people – who are usually skeptical of the Warren Report or Global Climate Change or both – swallow this “America under attack!” narrative in its entirety.
There’s outrage out there, I tell you. Outrage!
So let’s review a bit of history. Hollywood is hardly weak. In fact, Hollywood, in the form of the MPAA and several unions (including the DGA and SAG), openly lobbied Congress to break the Internet as we know it and eliminate Net Neutrality. Hey, Mr. Clooney: that was the free speech issue, not whether a studio decides to release a film or not. Where was your petition then? Or did you support your unions in their efforts to change the way the Internet works? Even now, the “weak” MPAA is still trying to overturn Net Neutrality, though in a more secret manner.
And where were the Hollywood petitions and public outrage in 2006 when we discovered that AT&T fed entire phone conversations to the NSA without any warrants whatsoever? Wasn’t this a massive government-backed hack as well? Or are there different standards when it is organic people (the non-corporate kind) who get violated by a government? Where was your editorial on that concern over privacy, Mr. Sorkin?
If Hollywood and those rallying around it over a Seth Rogan movie had bothered to raise the issue of wholesale NSA spying on the regular (organic) citizens back in 2006, we wouldn’t have needed Edward Snowden to point out a few things in 2013. But apparently, the violations of privacy only become a national crisis when a corporate (non-organic) person is involved.
Hack historian Newt Gingrich declared “America has lost its first cyberwar.” Well, he was half-right. America has indeed lost its first cyberwar but it was the United States government and their corporate allies who successfully attacked (and continue to attack) America. And not a peep from the attackees. Better these organic people focus their attention on supporting a corporate person who already enjoys more government privilege and access than they will ever have.
It’s much easier to fight for your “right” to watch a film. Much easier to mumble “freedom of speech.” Much easier to be a pretend patriot.
It’s less scary that way.
For if it’s true that a tiny, isolated country can successfully muster asymmetric cyberwarfare against a corporation more than 3x its size (by valuation), imagine what the mightiest military-industrial complex the world has ever known can do to its own peasant citizens.
Good thing those peasants have nothing to hide.