Welcome back to Ad Hominem, a newsletter about the changing nature of AdTech, surveillance capitalism, and the privacy issues that face every individual in the modern marketplace. If you’ve been forwarded this email from a friend, you can read other issues and sign up here. Some links may have paywalls.
Well, it’s slap-on-the-wrist time again for the big corporations abusing and ruining our privacy. Facebook has just paid a $550M fine for its undisclosed use of facial recognition, all while announcing quarterly profits of $7.3Bn. To them, violating the law is just an operating expense. Until we start assigning criminal penalties, this is how things will remain.
Attempts to regulate privacy via legislation have thus far fallen pretty flat so far. CCPA’s rollout has been so confusing and messy that industry lobbyists are calling for its enforcement to be delayed… and guess what… they’ll probably get a deferral, because the last thing we’d want to do is slow down business. To be fair, CCPA really *has* been quite confusing and messy - so their complaints are not unwarranted.
But something must be done. These companies who own are data are increasingly in control of what we see and hear online, and thereby, how we experience reality. This article opened up my mind to the difference between echo chambers and filter bubbles, two closely related ideas that are worth distinguishing:
I personally think that echo chambers and filter bubbles are slightly different. An echo chamber is what might happen when we are overexposed to news that we like or agree with, potentially distorting our perception of reality because we see too much of one side, not enough of the other, and we start to think perhaps that reality is like this.
Filter bubbles describe a situation where news that we dislike or disagree with is automatically filtered out and this might have the effect of narrowing what we know. This distinction is important because echo chambers could be a result of filtering or they could be the result of other processes, but filter bubbles have to be the result of algorithmic filtering.
Of course, now that everything runs on the internet, even your TV ads will soon be tailored to you as an individual. Privacy matters, even if you don’t think you have anything to hide.
Small Bites of News:
The new streaming service Disney+ has hit 28.6M subscribers in less than three months of operation.
This guy got a background check for work, and the result was a 300+ page PDF with every tweet he’d ever liked that contained “questionable” content (like swear words). Very weird and creepy.
Pinterest now lets users try on makeup via Augmented Reality. No real privacy concern here as long as Pinterest is anonymizing and tossing out all the data they collect… but, come on… do you really think they’re gonna do that? I’m cynical of all technologies like this until we get a piece of strong national legislation around facial recognition.
Chatbots are getting better. You may have already spoken with one and not known it.
Speaking of chat, WhatsApp has hit 2Bn users.
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