In case you missed it during the now weekly tsunami of supposedly apocalyptic ‘news events,’ something pretty important happened in the States this week.
Basically, US lawmakers, the supposed guardians of their citizens’ liberty and constitutional rights, have voted to give ISPs (Internet Providers such as Verizon or Vodafone) the right to sell your browsing history to the highest bidder.
All the stuff you do on the Internet, the sites you visit, whether you have a medical condition, whether you’ve ever thought you might have a medical condition, the days you’re home from work etc., are now all on sale to whoever is willing to pay hard cash for them. In other words, any right to digital privacy you thought you enjoyed – along with any notion of individual rights – just went out in one puff.
This wasn’t Trump, by the way. Yes, he expressed support for the bill and is thought likely to sign it, but the measure originated among so called ‘real politicians’ in the US Houses of Congress.
The measure is thought to be worth between $35 and $70 Billion to so called ‘big cable,’ though this seems a bit conservative. Their paid mouthpieces have argued that it puts ISPs on a ‘level playing field’ with Google and Facebook, who already earn satanic amounts by flogging the personal data of their users to God knows whom.
Apparently, the standard Google and Facebook mantra that their hyper-profits are all down to advertising and product placement is actually a load of shit (in fairness, to anyone who knows anything about advertising, it always seemed a bit far-fetched). It’s all about the moolah they make from selling your digital laundry.
It seems that Orwell was right. Big Brother is watching you. What he didn’t realize was that all Big Brother wants is to flog your suspect linen to someone, anyone with filthy wads of cash.
Oh, in case you’re interested, what’s the true value of the privacy that’s just been signed away by your protectors? What is the price of what you once thought was your private life? According to one article I saw, it’s about $30 per month for a mobile ISP connection, rising to $60 a month if you get your Internet through a cable network, which apparently most Americans do. Sometimes it can be good to know these things, though I’m not sure why.
Strange, though not surprising, to think that Julian Assange is holed up in an Embassy and Edward Snowden is in Russian exile for doing to Governments exactly what politicians have just voted to do to you, but I guess that’s just a weather vane of the age, more of that horrible graffiti we call the daily news.
A couple of thoughts occur. First, no one but the most cerebrally challenged, narcotic dependent citizen has any excuse for not realizing that your politicians are basically bought and paid for. They don’t even call it corruption any more. If you still don’t see it, there is no hope for you. Cynics might argue that you deserve to end up as cabbage or soylent green or whatever ultimate fate they have in mind for you.
Something you thought was yours is worth something to somebody with loads of money, so those people to whom you contract out your rights are only too happy to hand it over. That’s the way it works now. Maybe, in a sense, it always worked like this, but there’s so much money and urgency and bling these days that it’s more in your face than ever before.
Political establishments, demonstrating that limitless capacity for self-delusion, have failed to spot that most people increasingly know their democracy is bought and paid for. That’s why people vote for things like Trump and Brexit. They know that virtually everything they’re being told is a giant scam.
I know because I live in a country (Ireland) that’s basically been a fictitious democracy for decades, but it turns out the so called ‘greatest democracy’ is just as big a fraud. Heigh ho, let’s hope your Congressman or woman got a decent price for selling the remnants of your liberty. It’d be tragic to think they gave it away for peanuts, wouldn’t it?
Second, there’ll be those on this side of the pond who’ll argue that it can’t happen here, that the EU’s tradition of protection for its citizens will always be stronger than Daddy Bigbucks. Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on it. One of the reasons the EU project is unravelling lately is the increasing awareness that it’s basically all about money, or more specifically, finding more ways for the hyper-rich to suck out what remains of the marrow from their citizens.
The notion that our already hugely paid MEPs and senior bureaucrats are above a little corruption is, well, I used to enjoy Mary Poppins as well.
Privacy is over. It’s gone. It’s been sold for thirty dollars a month. The Congressmen doubtless aren’t thinking beyond the few extra bucks in their pockets, but they have lazily agreed to something that will alter society beyond recognition.
It’ll add an extra frisson to my local convenience store (See ‘What if Life was like The Internet’) where I’ve been queueing to buy the same pint of milk for, oh, about six months now. The unflappable reality hostess is still smiling, my pointless obduracy troubles her not a whit because she knows (or her hivemind does) that just like Congressmen, I have to fold eventually.
“Ok, so I can’t interest you in any gambling or lap dancing or chocolate opportunities, so what about … Oh wait. What’s this? Fond of the nudies, are we?”
“Cough … Splutter … Burp. Uh, how – how dare…?”
“Oh, it’s ok. Honestly, live and let live. I mean, it’s all a spectrum, isn’t it? Or whatever the politically correct thing to say is this week. Still though, there’s a few people who might like to know, your ex-wife, for example, or that politically correct NGO you just started working for, or…”
“Ok, ok. I give up. I surrender. What do you want?”
“Well, your data provider’s awfully interested in some real estate developments in Ulan Bator at the moment. They can’t attract much support on the open market, so they’re looking for anyone who’d be willing to invest in a genuine blue sky opportunity.”
They’ll take what remains of my money and then sell the shit on anyway, because there’s nothing to stop them, and we live in the age of the sociopath.
There is, perhaps, only one way to derail all this lovely progress, to spike that wheel that wants to crush anonymity for everyone except drug barons, bankers and other major criminals.
If everyone, at more or less the same time, simply took to the Internet and uploaded and confessed everything, every murky thought, every dodgy photo, every dubious peccadillo, every social disability, every less than brilliant moment, overwhelming the planet’s servers in a tsunami of naughty slime.
There’d simply be too much data for them to cope with, to sell at once. It would be the ultimate pre-emptive strike. It would, to paraphrase the 45th Prez, be beautiful in its own sleazy way, the ultimate act of rebellion. But it can’t happen, can it?