Thursday, 3 August 2017

Anonymity is the only anti-system choice short of revolution

Finding a solution to cyber-security isn’t proving easy, but what if people are thinking about the problem backwards?

First, it’s fairly obvious cyber-security would be less of an issue if companies didn’t collect and store every piece of the data they could get their hands on. Especially when few companies seem to know what to do with the data anyway and just hope to find a way to use it in the future. If the cyber-security question is really about safety – if people were truly concerned about fixing the problem – surely the answer is to increase the amount of anonymity online, not reduce it? After all, if none of my data can be tied to me, why would I fear a breach?
What happens to the girls outside the frame?
Do they, just, disappear?

We all yelled at the NSA for “collecting it all” but everyone seems perfectly happy handing the keys to their personal kingdom over to corporations.

I suspect it is vitally important for Facebook to capture all the data because it needs to map a single identity to a single person for the purposes of advertising. It can't achieve this with five separate identities of you. They really, truly not only don't care about privacy, Facebook wants to own privacy so they can sell it back to you. Because if it destroys privacy then it has nothing to trade.

It's a surveillance economy. Society has outsourced the panopticon to private companies. It was bad enough when the government controlled it, but at least there are certain rights against the government. We haven't quite figured out how to apply this to corporations.

What's frustrating is how all the arguments around anonymity online are focused on either bullying, trolling or abuse on the one hand, and some sophomoric notion of "responsibility" for people's words on the other. You can see this in the "speech is violence" rhetoric which, for obvious reasons, is outlined by a certain kind of activist.

Please read this carefully: The reason I am anonymous online is to force you, the reader, to be responsible for what you read and how you read it. The moment someone introduces theirs or someone else's identity into a discussion, they are hoping their statements will carry more weight or more credibility than the content those statements deserves. They are looking to substitute anecdote for data or personal preference for fact. It's why bylines on journalism are terrible (although The Economist's lack falls tends to be glorified opinion, so there must be a balance).

What's amazing is how much people want this identifying information. They want to know who or what you are so they can compartmentalise you and then only read what you write in the context of that knowledge. They want to judge what you say based on who you are. And when you don't give it to them, they actually fabricate it for you.

There is absolutely no benefit, none, to using your real-world identity online. Anything you think you can get by using your real identity, you can just as easily get using a different identity. Hell, there are times in real life when I don't use my real name. The risks in doing so online are legion, so why do it?

The greatest critique of social media, shopping and constant rebranding is that the people who run these things, do not participate in it. The owners of Google and Twitter do not blog and Tweet incessantly. Zuckerberg does not have a personal Facebook page where he takes pics of himself at parties. I don’t know what Larry Page and Sergey Brin are watching, or when they get out of bed. That’s the stuff we post on their websites so they can exploit it for money.

I think this picture is trying to tell me...something
The man who runs Forever 21, Do Won (Don) Chang, does not obsess over creating his personal fashion brand. He doesn't care about having the latest clothes or modelling trends. His family is by all accounts traditional and typically Korean.

When he emigrated to the US, Chang worked in a number of jobs, even as a janitor. On his Facebook page, he identifies as a devoted Christian and scripture quotes are printed on the bottom of his shopping bags. Does a guy who got his start working three jobs and scrubbing toilets strike you as someone who'd encourage his children to chase fashion trends and buy new clothes all the time?

None of Chang’s work ethic nor his sacrifice is on display in his commercial creation. That outlook has enabled him to make the sacrifices, endure hardship, persevere and build something massively successful. Instead, his store promotes a lifestyle of perpetual youth and endless fun feeding a ravenous and paranoid consumer mindset that he himself doesn’t possess and wouldn’t instil in his children.

The point is the people who make these things don’t really use these things. Paris Hilton doesn’t watch reality TV, but she wants you to watch her reality TV show. Larry Page and Sergey Brin don’t read or click Adsense, and Zuckerberg – who reads ancient Greek and Latin – doesn’t spend his time telling Facebook “what’s on his mind today.” And Chang doesn’t want his daughters turning over their wardrobe every two weeks shopping at Forever 21.

They make things they'd never use in the way they want you to use them. This is the hypocrisy at the heart of consumerism, and it has been this way since the beginning, but it has never been so nakedly obvious. Consumerism is a carny hustle. A game. Ask yourself why the people who run the game generally don’t play the game. Then ask who really is winning the game.

And, bloody hell, use a pseudonym on Facebook. Not your real world identity. I fail to see how that is a problem for anyone but Facebook.

No comments: