Reading up on the latest tech news during the Windows 10 rollout and the launch of Intel’s Skylake processors reminded me just how far we’ve come in ceding control of our online lives to a few self-interested corporations. If I hadn’t lived through it I might be shocked, but it’s still pretty disquieting.
Now, the internet being its usual binary self, raising questions about privacy in the digital age is seen by many as equivalent to donning a tinfoil hat, but I don’t agree. Being naive about or flagrantly irresponsible with your rights is your business, but acting as if what’s happening at a cultural level is inevitable or even healthy is itself an indicator of insanity. Particularly with regard to children, and how few protections seem to be in place to allow them to have an online life that is not personally identifiable in perpetuity.
The marketing aspect of all this invasive technology is pretty straightforward. If a company talks about improving the user experience, what they mean is that the changes they’re making are for the express purpose of data rape. Likewise, when a company talks about a product as a service, what they mean is that you’re going to keep paying for the same thing over and over but never actually own anything. The Windows operating system is now a service, but because it was given to many users as a free upgrade the ongoing costs will be derived from improving the user experience — meaning harvesting massive amounts of user data, some of which may never have been available before because that data originates at the level of the operating system.
A few days ago I said I thought Microsoft might get into anti-trust trouble with the government after goading by Google or Amazon or some other miffed data scraper, but in the intervening days I’ve revised that opinion. The information grab that Microsoft is attempting is so unprecedented, and penetrates not just into the homes but the psyches of the individuals who use Microsoft’s products, that I think the federal government will be forced to intervene. [ Read more ]