Okay, before starting a conversation about your Internet privacy, I’m going to warn you right now: NAUGHTY WORDS WILL FOLLOW THIS, SO IF YOU ARE GOING TO GET YOUR UNDIES IN A TWIST OVER THAT, YOU SHOULD JUST LEAVE NOW AND GO LOOK AT KITTENS.
Okay, so here’s the deal — if you and I are ever in a conversation and you start bitching up a storm about how your precious widdle personal data isn’t safe on the big bad interweebs, you can, at the very least expect me to check the fuck out of the discussion with arms thrown skyward and a melodramatic huff. At the high end of the OMG-You’re-Being-a-Fuckwit Scale (the OYBAF Scale), depending on the company I’m in and the type of day I’m having, you could get the abbreviated form of this blog post spewed at you. (TL;DR: use your fucking head you fucking lackwitted waste of carbon.)
The thing that gets missed more often than not in these conversations is that the big players that gather your data are offering a free service to you. Those free services, due to the needs of things like hardware and bandwidth, nevermind the fucking genius coders who need a paycheck and all the free caffeine they can lay their paws on, require this thing called money. Maybe you’ve heard of it.
So when Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and whomever else you care to name, profit from your personal data, understand that it’s not like you’re getting cornholed — you get your gigabytes of free email, you get a search engine that kicks serious ass, you get to communicate with friends and family all over the planet by sending them stupid memes. If you have issues with the way your data is being used, then stop using the service. If you won’t stop using the service, then stop your bullshit posturing.
You Don’t Have Anything Worth Keeping Private
Then there’s the fact that most of us are incredibly boring people and don’t have any secrets to protect, anyway. Seriously. No one cares about your plushies fetish (much). And if you’re doing anything highly illegal, don’t be dumb enough to talk about it on Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, or whatever. But I suppose if you were being smart, you wouldn’t be committing illegal acts in the first place.
What? You Thought These Were Public Services?
One of the things I’ve noticed about free-to-use services on the Internet is how goddamned entitled their users become. If I had half a penny for every time someone moaned and wailed about changes to a service they don’t actually pay money for, I’d be able to buy Bill Gates and put him to work in a Tijuana Donkey Show. Here’s the deal: you use a free system, you have to be able to wrap your head around two concepts: a.) you will shut the fuck up and say “thank you”, and b.) you will not whine about that service using your data to generate the revenue to continue to run the service that you don’t pay anything for.
Sure, your privacy is important, but you don’t have to share everything, and you need to be cognizant of the realities of free web services such a social media and webmail.
But I Want Internet Privacy and I Don’t Want Marketers To Know About Me!
They already do. It’s not like it’s just the big Internet players are probing your privacy’s poop hole. You know those loyalty cards you get at the gas station? They totally keep tabs on what you purchase with them. Ever wonder why you start getting coupons at the cash register for something useful, even though you’re just buying a box of Cheez-Its? It’s because they keep a history of what you buy.
That said, most of what happens when your information is parsed is that it is used to tailor ad content specific to your interests. Would you rather have ads for maxi pads (“got heavy, chunky flow this month?”) sidelining the email chain setting up the details of your next Magic: The Dorkening game? Or would you rather see ads for the new Super Green Special Limited Cards Deck that includes a +5 Cluebat of Smiting in every fourth pack?
Look, I Get It
No, really, I do. Nobody wants to feel like their lives are being intruded upon. I hate it when I visit a page and then have a graphic ad banner follow me around the Internet like a love-sick nerd who calls the object of his affection “m’lady” and hasn’t bathed in three days. I feel icky when it gets too close to me, too. But. I also understand the practical need for it1.
There are some awesome free things out there in Internetland, and while everyone acts like their privacy is getting boned, it ultimately comes down to personal choice. If you’re going to use those free services, you need to accept a certain degree of monetization of your information.
The ad, not the stalker.↩