I’m subscribed to a number of social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+… And probably a few more that I can’t even remember the names of. I’m not an avid poster, I may do one update a week, a few if the power of sharing really compels me, but I do use a good bit of time on following what fellow social networkers are up to on the aforementioned platforms; clicking, reading, sharing and liking.
I spend even more time on the powerhouse search engine (that doesn’t need to be named for everyone to know which one I’m talking about) typing in things like… healthy snacks, bodyweight workouts, parson russell terriers, stuff that’s pretty normal, stuff that anyone reading my search history would think this person is trying to get in shape, and possibly has a dog. And they would be correct.
Then there’s this I’ve typed in the search box: Wormholes, black holes, time travel, the Manhattan project, Nazis, aliens, abductions, cattle mutilations, shadow government, black ops… Need I go on? I hope whoever finds that, also sees the searches I’ve made for common sci-fi topics, writing and writing competitions. I write sci-fi. No one has diagnosed me as bat crazy yet, but my search history would undeniably suggest that.
One of those bat crazy searches landed a documentary on my lap titled “Terms and Conditions May Apply”, released in 2013. It highlights the absence of digital privacy and the surveillance conducted on average people, which in turn, results in profiling based on their digital behavior, and one may ask …so what? I got nothing to hide. Well, the documentary also paints the scenario depicted in the movie “Minority Report”, where people are arrested pre-emptively (and prosecuted) for crimes they did not commit yet, a society where a digital eye prevents its members from behaving in an undesired way. Worrisome. And it’s already happening as we learn through three different cases in the UK from recent years.
Here are a few quotes of interest from “Terms and Conditions May Apply”:
“The Patriot Act expanded the ability of the Federal Government to do surveillance in a lot of little ways. You don’t need a judge’s approval for instance to find out what websites someone visited, what search terms they typed into Google–“
Declan McCullagh,CNET’s news.com Chief Political Correspondent
“There are companies you’ve never heard of, like Axiom, that claim to have about 1,500 points of data on the average American citizen, everything from, you know, whether you’re right or left handed, what kind of dog you have, what your sort of psychological outlook is, and all of that can be used to inform the decisions that businesses make about us as well.”
Eli Pariser, Author (“The Filter Bubble)
“According to the Department of Homeland Security reports Facebook has replaced almost every other CIA information gathering program since it was launched in 2004.”
A News clip in “Terms and Conditions May Apply”
“After years of secretly monitoring the public, we were astounded so many people would willingly publicize where they live, their religious and political views, and advertise lists of all their friends, personal email addresses, phone numbers, hundreds of photos of themselves, and even status updates about what they were doing moment to moment– It is truly a dream come true for the CIA.”
Christopher Sartinsky, Deputy CIA Director
“It turns out that, in this environment, a digital environment, there’s a loophole to the Fourth Amendment, which is, if a third party collects a lot of this information, that government doesn’t have to go through those same hoops, it’s called the third party doctrine.”
John Palfrey, Professor of Law (Harvard Law School) on government acquiring private records through third parties such as Google and Facebook.
“Terms and Conditions May Apply” is a must watch for anyone living in the digital age and partaking actively in it. The illusion of the delete button fools a lot of cyber citizens, and this documentary served as a reminder that whatever happens on the internet, stays on the internet, and it’s guaranteed someone is following your digital footprints.
I also recommend the Apple agreements episode by South Park: