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Notes by EMA: FAANG’s Privacy and Control

Enrique Aboitiz Mendieta

11 01 2018

 


 

It seems to be the subject of the day. There is an obsession with privacy and the control of the FAANG Group — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. “They have too much power” is the argument. “They know more about you than you know yourself” is the other argument. May I present you another way of looking at this? Never have we had the possibility of more privacy and more options than today.

faang logos
Image from MSCI.com

 

We have four sources of information today. Firstly, from our daily contact with people. Secondly, from traditional media. Thirdly, from social media. Fourthly, from our leaders — religious, commercial, and political. It is curious how we trust our religious leaders the most (we believe the Bible the most), social media second, and traditional media the least. Now, in reality, the Bible is the least accurate and your religious leaders tell you nothing but myths that have absolutely no empirical evidence of any kind, almost. Social media is packed and rich with fake news, as is most gossip, and traditional media is the most accurate. Much of conventional press comes in video form, which is most accurate or least inaccurate. It is true that conventional media sensationalizes and shows portions of the truth, but it is as close to the fact as is possible albeit probable.

Let us talk about privacy. The media tells us that we care about our privacy, but we really do not. People love to gossip. People regularly and unabashedly tell other people the most personal details of their lives. People put on Facebook all about their experiences. People go and tell their sins to a priest in confession knowing that he might have just come out of the sacristy after playing with a little boy or an adult girl. Might we ask if people want to have a choice about divulging their inner world? Yes, they do and they should have that choice. The right to privacy should be enforced so one has a choice even if they do not care about their privacy. The FAANGs have information about one that is least intimate — your birthday, what you like to watch, and when you go to the dentist. This is the information we are concerned about. But then we go and tell our friends who we are having an affair with, what diseases we may be suffering from, and if we are depressed. How does one reconcile these contradictions? I guess the answer lies in human nature?

It is true that Amazon tries to help you find what else you will want to buy after you have bought something. I see that as an aid. I do have a choice to purchase or not. If one does not have faith in one’s own ability to choose, then one might want to search internally before trying to stop Amazon from helping you explore what might be more useful to you and what may enhance your life even if they tempt you to buy more. Are we going to blame the chewing gum companies for offering us 12 flavors because they force us to buy more gum or confuse us on which we want to buy? Netflix enables you to find new movies that may interest you and save you time when you are most tired at night and want to chill out over a film without having to peruse one. Perhaps competition among more FAANGs like Alibaba and Tencent will satisfy your concern? Or does it accelerate your anxiety? Again, you have a choice.

 

No one complained about the accuracy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica when it was updated every decade. Google and Wikipedia are updated daily. The information that is in these vehicles is much more accurate than the stories you heard from your parents, your teachers, your priest, your president, and your pope so caveat emptor!

 

Now, someone tell me, who doesn’t want Apple in his life? It has enhanced mine like almost no other experience. What I do not want in my life is a priest telling me what to do based on myths that were dreamt about, created, and invented over time. What I do not want is a priest giving me absolution for my sins after he has just played with a 13-year-old. What I do not want is a lecture from a bishop who has been moving around pedophile priests aiding and abetting them from escaping from the rule of law and moving on to take advantage of another teenager. What I do not want is a politician promising me something that he knows full well he will not, cannot, and has not the intention of complying. Or should one just focus on one’s growing ability to tell the difference between the lecture and the promise, or even just not listening?

Let’s talk about Google. It is correct that they choose what information enters Google. What is worse is that the systems prioritize what you will see first. Now, you know it; they are not hiding that from you. No one complained about the accuracy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica when it was updated every decade. Google and Wikipedia are updated daily. The information that is in these vehicles is much more accurate than the stories you heard from your parents, your teachers, your priest, your president, and your pope, so caveat emptor!

And many do not want to use these vehicles for the above reasons. That is fine. That is, of course, their choice. Now choice for the wrong reason and judgment out of ignorance is one’s right. There is no law against stupidity.

We have never been freer than today. There has never been a situation where we have more control over our lives than today. A thousand years ago we were ignorant, and our lives and our thoughts were controlled by the religious and the politicians as, from birth almost, they all told us myths that either had very little truth or outright lies. They knew that man feared hell more than he valued heaven and they used that to control people, people who had no options. They could not cross check, they could not leave, and they were in a rut. They were ignorant under the tyranny of ignorance managed by the control duopoly of the king and the pope. The beginning of the freedom of many was urbanization, education, mass information, and facilitated travel where one could keep away from the traditional control of tribe, tradition, and religion and develop a developing mind of one’s own. The king and the pope ruled with fear — the fear of the noose and the fear of hell. That was control and the fostering of ignorance with fear to maintain and accelerate control. No one had privacy as small society gossip removed almost all privacy by word of mouth. The sacrifice of the mass was the pulpit of effective and, increasingly better organized, brainwashing and repetition in the name of God and king — the duopoly of power. Neither paid taxes and placed the burden of financing stupidities from wars to the crusade on the already very deprived peasant.

 

Before we were effectively forced through the removal of choice, now we can choose to celebrate these incredible technologies and shed ourselves of the stupidities of the past as we embrace the information and wisdom of the future. But let’s do it armed and prepared so we can give up some privacy that does not matter for better information, better maps, Waze, Google Earth, Uber, better education, more information, more wisdom, and that incredible iPhone — in brief, for a more enhanced life.

 

Then comes the myth of honor and country. Hundreds of millions killed for what could have been negotiated resulting in more for everyone. Battle destroys lives and assets. War sets us back, but we do it for king, for country. What level of stupidity is this? It was repeated over and over with one story after another — all false. Henry the 8th changed his religion, why? Cherchez la femme, pardieu! Cherchez la femme!

Then comes the sending of missionaries, behind swords to save souls, upsetting societies that were fine on their own, evolving on their own and at their pace. The American Indians must have had a great life roaming the plains of the vast American continent in clean air, hunting buffalo, smoking cannabis, and getting high on mushrooms. That was replaced by whiskey and Protestantism — which would you choose today?

Do we give up privacy for better health? Is this worth it? It might be to some. The myth of losing our privacy and the tale of losing control of our lives and our destiny is purely that, a myth.

Learn and think with all the tools you have available today. We have more opportunities to learn than ever: travel, books, e-books, YouTube, Facetime, low-cost airlines, Airbnb, and a better educational base to begin. You were controlled by religion and tradition before. Today, we are influenced by FAANGs, before you had nowhere to go; today we have a choice as we cannot be forced. Before we were effectively forced through the removal of choice, now we can choose to celebrate these incredible technologies and shed ourselves of the stupidities of the past as we embrace the information and wisdom of the future. But let’s do it armed and prepared so we can give up some privacy that does not matter for better information, better maps, Waze, Google Earth, Uber, better education, more information, more wisdom, and that incredible iPhone — in brief, for a more enhanced life. Today, we can choose freely and with little societal consequences. Our grandparents, and maybe our parents, could not for all intents and purposes.

If one is concerned about privacy then the choice is not to accept being domesticated like cows that just give milk as programmed, on a daily basis. Man, Harare argues, has lost the sense of curiosity and adventure because he has been domesticated. He feels he is increasingly irrelevant but is that not a choice — maybe not? Does the domesticated cow have a choice? Margaret Thatcher pointed out to us: “There is no such thing as society. There is a living tapestry of men and women…and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves.”

If you are worried about your privacy and the control FAANGs will have on you and your life, maybe you should be?