On a previous community post we discussed how to use Facebook and maintain your privacy, here’s the link if you’re interested.
But something I see often overlooked in privacy discussions is if our techniques for achieving privacy are actually contributing to the liberation of cyberspace and building a healthy internet society or are we just making our situation worst.
The common techniques for achieving privacy tend to be more about avoiding surveillance rather than fixing what caused it in the first place. Now let’s take Facebook for example, let’s say a privacy newbie stumbles upon a privacy forum, he learns about the wrong doings of Facebook and he decides he wants to make a change. Now, what is the typical response he would get?
Well from experience I can say that is mostly in line with the #deletefacebook mentality. And trust me, I tend to be around online privacy advocates a lot, online forums, subreddits and telegram chats, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one that’s not 100% on board with this whole #deletefacebook mentality.
Who I call privacy extremists tend to have one opinion regarding Facebook: To hell with it. Facebook and other social media sites spy on us, manipulate us and restrict our free speech with their black-box proprietary algorithms. For tech-extremists there’s only one way to “break free” from Mark’s dirty hands and achieve freedom and liberation, the only way is out.
On reddit you’ll often see people asking how to become fully anonymous to arrive at this free speech utopia, they want to be lone wolfs, nobody should have the right to even look them in the eye. But anonymity comes with great irony of outcome.
If you get off Facebook and other repressive and so called evil digital platforms with the hope of gaining back your agency, free speech and privacy then you will ironically lose the values and freedoms you treasured most. To achieve full anonymity one must never say his or her name, never make any accounts, never comment, never express yourself, always delete all cookies and other metadata and leave no trace.
Privacy “woke” people think they are free now that they isolate themselves and repress their own speech to avoid algorithmic classification as part of one specific market demographic. But giving up their free speech is not the only value they used to treasure but actually self-repress.
Privacy is the human right to protect the few things and people you value most, but if you embrace anonymity then you value everything equally to the extend you must delete all data, in other words with anonymity nothing is of value.
To never say what you want to say, to never participate in discourse, to understand privacy in nihilistic terms, to #deletefacebook is not a sing of digital liberation, it’s self inflicted repression.
Reading Snowden’s findings tends to be analogous with the Incel’s community “Black pill”, to take the snowden pill is to recognize that all is lost, that the surveillance dystopia is already here and the only solution is to lay down and rot. The only way is out.
People who read Snowden and Richard Stallman come to a point of tech defeatism. All proprietary software robs you of your rights, therefore the government and all private companies disrespect your rights, the entire world is against you.
Because the only way is out the only logical solution is to quit proprietary software altogether: Install linux, live in the command line, regular software and websites can’t be trusted, you might as well go offline.
This privacy rabbit hole is not uncommon, look at the people on the forums and subreddits: They all want to quit service X and adopt a more isolated version. Quitting one thing after another and another not only creates difficulty in everyday life - Sorry I can’t use whatsapp, it’s proprietary software - it also creates unhealthy isolation.
Privacy extremists in this way tend to move away from public discourse into small and niche private communities. This density of extremists has social repercussions: It creates eco chambers.
A privacy newbie might then be redirected to an isolated platform were he can become radicalized by the eco chamber. It’s a cycle of digital self harm: A user has genuine concerns about social media privacy and he is incentiveized to isolate himself, making him vulnerable to believing the group’s dogma and then becoming part of the endless discussion about how the only solution is to isolate oneself, justifying the actions of the community, now that a new member joins this community the cycle can continue.
From interested to preacher of dogma, privacy purists push people away from the rights and freedoms they claim to champion like agency, free speech and privacy and towards an unhealthy state of mind, they push privacy advocates towards isolation and self repression.
The problem stems from the initial supposition, that to delate Facebook is synonymous to fixing surveillance. We should not #deletefacebook, we should #fixfacebook.
To quit social media is to run away from the problem. That’s not activism, that’s being a coward. Confronting the problem doesn’t mean choosing alternative platforms or software, market solutions are not the solution, they are the root cause.
Joining mastodon instead of facebook is doing as much to fix surveillance capitalism as buying metal straws is doing to stop companies from emitting 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: Zero.
Real change, however it might look, will not come about from isolation and self repression. To fix tech we must put away the quitting everything mentality, because it’s tearing us apart.
Real change will not come from lonely individuals on a blockchain-powered-libre-source social media platform, real change will come from collective effort. Only together we can even begin to fix this.
Well that was quite the ramble, what do you think? Is the current privacy dogma healthy? anyways I just think privacy discussions all tend to be the same (quit this service and quit that service) so I wanted to do my best to debunk those claims and maybe start a different kinda privacy discussion.
Thanks for reading, Alex.