The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Creepy

06/12/2020

Imagine looking out your front window.  On the sidewalk across the street, a man, an auditor-looking man in a trench coat sits in a lawn chair with a clipboard on his lap.  When your lights come on each morning, he makes a note on his clipboard.  When you get the newspaper off the front porch, he makes another note.  The time you leave for work and what you’re wearing, the time you return, whether you carry groceries into your home, whether you got your car washed – it all gets noted on his clipboard.  He notes the same details for each of your children as well.  And, he does it every day, 24/7.  But each night, he sneaks up to your front door and drops advertisements and flyers – lots of them.  Some of the advertisements are interesting but mostly junk.

Kinda creepy, huh?

That was my original view of Google (now known as Alphabet).  It makes money by collecting and selling information about YOU to advertisers.  Of course, whatever value your personal information has, it goes to them, not you.  Advertisers get your private information, and you get more interesting advertisements.  What a deal!  (By the way, Google does NOT have the only search engine on the internet – use BING instead.)

Then, along came Facebook.  Same basic operating model of selling information about you and your family to strangers.  They just have more of it to sell, because people volunteer more information to “connect” with other people, some of whom matter.  Two years ago, an internal committee of Facebook determined they were creating dissension and unrest in America, contrary to their stated goals.  Instead of connecting Americans, they were driving us apart, and they know it . . . but continue to do it anyway.  I believe Facebook presents a real and present danger to our democracy.

Given our history of warfare, we already have a deep distrust of government, and I expected there would also be a deep distrust of big institutions as well.

I was wrong.

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