back to article Surveillance Capitalism thinks it won, but there's still time to unplug it

On a walk across the show floor at January's Consumer Electronics Show, a friend working in technology for nearly thirty years expressed unease at where it all seemed to be headed. As I pulled my head away from a consumer door lock containing an embedded retinal scanner, I replied. “I don’t know what you’re talking about." …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

    Is it? Surely its on the lowest hanging fruit in your circle of friends / family / colleagues etc. I've repeatedly asked my SO to stop having anything to do with Uber <Tumbleweed>... I've warned about super-profiles and shadow profiles on Facebook for years ->. More <Tumbleweed>. And Windows-10 slurp? Don't get me started. Some people just don't care!

    But if they did, the big surveillance giants could be killed off overnight. That's the difference between real world products and digital / virtual. But not even the recent YouTube scandals were enough to create change. What will it take? An entire generation being exploited... I applaud Germany for banning spyware watches, but a lot more action is needed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

      "Some people just don't care!"

      That's the problem. I'm increasingly inclined to think that the only solution to this, and quite a few other 'problems' with people, is another 50,000 years or so of evolution.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

      if it was "SOME people don't care", it wouldn't be an issue. The issue is that "99.999999% don't care" and this makes the "surveillance capitalism" possible. And permanent. Because people's nature is remarkably stable, has been, over the last, what, six thousands years give or take.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

        "The issue is that "99.999999% don't care"

        People do not want to think, they want to buy or be seen as having worth, the mechanics behind social media hold zero interest for them.... They just want to be to be popular, to be "liked", to imagine that they have their 15 minutes of fame.. Nothing new here really, it's been that way since homo sapiens got together as tribes...

        But the true culprit is the advertising business, they are the ones pushing for more data, metrics.. Google/Facebook etc would have no business if advertising did not bring in revenue...

        1. strum

          Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

          >But the true culprit is the advertising business, they are the ones pushing for more data, metrics..

          It used to be that advertisers (or their clients) accepted that 50% of their advertising was wasted - but they didn't know which half. They were content with that, because there wasn't any alternative.

          When advertising on the Internet was first suggested, those clients could be forgiven for thinking it was all wasted. It was only the promise of metrics which persuaded them to dip their toes in the pool.

          Since then, the internet has become utterly dependent on advertising - bypassing any attempt at micropayments. The only differential that anyone can offer is - more metrics than the next guy.

          So, it isn't quite as simple as boycotting one or two web giants - the whole system (the one we all depend on) would fall apart without advertising, and the advertising would fall apart without metrics, and the metrics would fall apart without snooping.

          In the end, individuals can do nothing to change this; only governments can (as long as they aren't in the pockets of the offenders).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

        "The issue is that "99.999999% don't care" and this makes the "surveillance capitalism" possible"

        Well those 99.999% will have to suffer the consequences then and the small minority left can just sit back and laugh at the idiots

        FWIW I don't have a facebook account, don't own a smartphone or an amazon device and nor do I have a google log in for them to track me on their website plus I regularly delete brower cookies. It isn't hard, but to paraphase PT Barnum, never underestimate the stupidity or gullibility of the general public.

    3. The obvious

      Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

      Interestingly the whole debate you bring up centres around the products we choose to use, the bigger concern is surely the ones we don't and that we can't choose to avoid, try to decide you won't use any google services, blackhole their ASN at the gateway and see how long you last trying to get anything done online... it's a fun experiment if nothing else to determine how reliant you are on them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

        "try to decide you won't use any google services, blackhole their ASN at the gateway and see how long you last trying to get anything done online... it's a fun experiment if nothing else to determine how reliant you are on them."

        Speak for yourself. Apart from some online banking everything else I do online is purely for entertainment purposes and even the banking I could do over the phone or in branch. If my broadband went down for good it would be annoying but I could carry on no problem. Don't assume everyone needs to internet to conduct their lives simply because you apparently do.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

        I have to say I do quite well in a Google free world. I've installed Lineage with MicroG or Copperhead OS on my last 2 phones and have zero Google processes running on my phones. I run Pi-Hole at home and blacklist away; Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. Browser add-ons, FOSS apps, it does take a slight bit of work, but not a lot. It's not perfect, but I will be damned if I become a commodity without a fight.

    4. DropBear

      Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

      ..."repeatedly asked"?!? Not your choice. Only what YOU do is. And discussing with others why you do it.

    5. WatAWorld

      Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

      "I applaud Germany for banning spyware watches, but a lot more action is needed."

      I'd applaud Germany only if it outlawed state spying on its own peaceful citizens.

      I'd applaud Germany if it outlawed totalitarianism, instead of legislating it as mandatory.

      Germany seems to have learned nothing from their experiences in the 20th century. They think the danger of Nazism is in the name "Nazi".

      The real danger is in the violent totalitarianist beliefs groups like the Nazis, Bolsheviks, Maoists and Khmer Rouge held. The Nazis and Bolsheviks are merely historical examples of violent totalitarian groups. Such groups today bear different names.

      Yes, I too would like to see corporate spying limited. But the threat of corporate spying is nothing compared to the threat of domestic spying.

      1. JohnFen

        Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

        "Yes, I too would like to see corporate spying limited. But the threat of corporate spying is nothing compared to the threat of domestic spying."

        I literally don't see any difference between the two. Perhaps that's because I live in the US, where there's nearly no difference between major corporations and the government in the first place.

      2. strum

        Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

        >But the threat of corporate spying is nothing compared to the threat of domestic spying.

        That's utter tosh. Neither is to be applauded, but, for the most part, the gummint doesn't care about your opinions. Corporations do, because they can sell them.

      3. silverfern Bronze badge

        Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

        Yup.

        And the surveillance starts with national ID cards and compulsory residents registration (reporting your address - and moves - to local authorities).

        But to be fair, this goes on all over Europe, not just in Germany.

    6. JohnFen

      Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

      Yes, this is one of the pernicious effects of the massive spying that too many people are OK with -- it means that if you don't want to be spied on, you have to go to extreme efforts to avoid it. And even then, you'll fail, mostly because the people you know are agreeing to being spied on anyway, and that sucks you into the whole scheme.

      Pervasive surveillance means that you have to treat literally every device that can communicate outside your home, and every person you know, as a threat. That can't be good for society.

      1. Long John Brass

        Re: 'Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us'

        it means that if you don't want to be spied on, you have to go to extreme efforts to avoid it

        No if you do that then you stand out in the data-sets! Do not ever be the outlier. You want an data profile that says; Utterly normal, nothing to see here.

        Otherwise you get a knock on the d0383,.cxn &*^&^0908

        +++

        ***NO CARRIER***

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Until (or unless) you can *show* people that whole creepy picture of *themselves*

    That won't change.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Until (or unless) you can *show* people that whole creepy picture of *themselves*

      Amen to that!

      I once showed someone who wasn't worried about his Linked-In account the "other side" of that website - the side where companies pay for access to the profile data. As soon as he saw how they had linked everything together - where he worked, what technology they used, who he purchased from, all his business and personal relationships, and on and on, he started to grasp the extent of the spider web, and his own personal contribution to building that web.

      What we really need is to demand to see our profiles on these services.It would scare the shit out of people to see just how accurate, in-depth and detailed you can get when you start combining self-generated data with what you can buy from the other data brokers.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What now

    Stopped buying Smart*.* (Iot, Smartphones, Laptops), especially from S. Korea. So what now? Remaining choice is practically zero. Are we living in a Society or an Economy? It feels like the road to Blakes-7 dystopia...

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: What now

      @AC

      "Remaining choice is practically zero"

      No it isnt. We have freedom we have choice. When the lemmings all walk together they feel happy, and so what why shouldnt they? If they want smart X, Y, Z let them buy it. I have a non-smart phone and I bought it not because I increase tin foil sales but because I have no use for smart features and just want a phone.

      We dont have to buy win10, in fact I have been moving people to linux. Not because of a lust for jamming devices just because they find it easier for them.

      I have an old MP3 player working off a AA battery in preference to the gizmo's out there. Cheap and does all I want and more.

      Now imagine if you really cared even half a hoot about ducking surveillance. Disk only versions of linux designed by default to be anonymous. Non-smart tech everywhere and going cheap. Easy access to the TOR network, VPN's and proxies.

      People still exist in the outside world.

      1. The obvious

        Re: What now

        What's the first thing that user does with that Linux (before they consider sacking you and going back to windows), they fire up a website that reports all their activity back to google's giant data hoover.. Sometimes choice is an illusion.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: What now

          @ The obvious

          "they fire up a website that reports all their activity back to google's giant data hoover"

          Ok, and so what? If you really dont want things reporting use a memory only linux with a browser with all the blocking addons and vpn/tor. That way the data that does get sucked up is worthless.

          "Sometimes choice is an illusion"

          Unfortunately that feeling of 'all hope is gone' brings about the situation. People saying 'they will do it anyway' and so dont choose an alternative but instead just go along head first into it. What it usually means is people want the fancy new feature and are willing to trade their data for it. Not a bad trade when you want to find something on google and for those who disagree use something else.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

    I think you'll find you need to give the app permission to do this.

    Other than violations where you aren't given any choice in the matter or a setting that should 'disable' something doesn't, it is all down to your own choice. You don't have to use any Google products, and can thus avoid their tracking. You don't have to use Facebook, and can avoid sharing your deep dark secrets with the world. You don't have to buy a smart thermostat or smart doorbell or smart lightbulb.

    The alternative is nanny-statism where you can't buy certain things because they're "bad for you".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

      The general population just give out app permission without thinking.

      So what could possibly go wrong with measuring your emotional reactions?

      Let's leave them to it shall we so Amazon at some point can sell people rope when they are suicidal or maybe sell them rubbish when they are down or up. Nothing wrong with that is there? I mean it's not like the exploitation of a persons emotional state to make money?

      Shine a light.

      1. Captain Hogwash
        Devil

        Re: rope when they are suicidal

        Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

    2. James 51
      FAIL

      Re: Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

      The alternative is nanny-statism where you can't buy certain things because they're "bad for you".

      You mean like illegal drugs? Illegal weapons?

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

      I think you'll find you need to give the app permission to do this.

      Oh, you mean tapping 'allow' once so you can see the funny poo. Well that'll stop the mass data mining onslaught.

    4. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Uh, "provides ... to any app that wants to measure your emotional reactions"?

      You don't have to use any Google products, and can thus avoid their tracking. You don't have to use Facebook, and can avoid sharing your deep dark secrets with the world.

      And that sums up a big part of the problem - you have demonstrated that you don't realise how bad it's got.

      You think that Google and Facebook don't have a profile on you ? Think again.

      You can be very sure that both of them do whether you have ever visited any of their own sites. Unless you have been incredibly lucky to have never ever visited any website with Google or Facebook tracking code on it (disguised as things like analytics) then they do have a profile on you. And can you be 100% certain that no-one has given Facebook your contact details - they shouldn't without you permission, but so many see no problem complying with the nagging to "just upload your contacts so we can join them to your circle of friends".

      I suggest you lookup Max Schrems. Facebook were found guilty of illegally building profiles of people who had not consented - but they have not stopped doing that. We're just waiting for Privacy Shield Figleaf to get the same treatment that Safe Harbour did when it was shown to be worthless. US law is fundamentally incompatible with EU privacy law, it's just that there are too many commercial interests for it to be dealt with ... yet.

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge

    It's all about choices...

    That, dear Reg readers, starts with us. We’re the folks who made this world. We’re the folks who keep it ticking over. Surveillance capitalism, that’s on us. It’s our legacy.

    Is that really what we want to leave behind? Or can we make an effort to do better in 2018? ®

    So what do you suggest?

    As techies.. one of our choices (if we think we have one) is our employer. But the real power is being a consumer and having friends that are like minded. No FB, no Amazon (if we can help it), no Google for starters. Yeah.. some of us already feel it's a lost battle and that they're ok with the way things are.

    But what about those not inside tech? The average consumer... most don't seem to care. I'm not sure if they don't understand what's being sucked up from them and then spoon fed back or if they feel that they, as consumers, have the better end of the deal.

    We, for the most part, work in tech. We're not the followers, or the ones who set corporate policy. We might, depending on the company we work for, be the tools used for this much like soldiers in a war. So is it our legacy? Or is it the masters of finance?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: It's all about choices...

      We, for the most part, work in tech. We're not the followers, or the ones who set corporate policy. We might, depending on the company we work for, be the tools used for this much like soldiers in a war. So is it our legacy? Or is it the masters of finance? .... Mark 85

      Hmmm? Howdy, Mark 85,

      The present actuality and virtualised reality is subtly surreally more different, and relies solely upon arrogant ignorance to survive and prosper ...... hence the mania around the pimping and pumping of the need and feeds of secrecy and disinformation to maintain and retain the false pictures which deny one the truth of one's existence.

      It is why there is so much fear and terror in status quo systems around the Rise of Virtual Machines and Advanced Intelligence which are immune and not infected or effected with such a perversion, and be APTly ACTive in all manner of novel creative and disruptive circles/clouds/webs/businesses.

      And is the more accurate current situation for more than just many ...... We, for the most part, work in tech. We're not leaders, but followers of ones who set corporate policy. We might, depending on the company we work for, be the tools used for this much like soldiers in a war. So is it our legacy? Or is it the masters of finance?

      The Future will be both Fundamentally and Radically Different though ..... it is only natural and to be fully expected and embraced if one is not to be thought and rendered a Luddite.

      1. James 51

        Re: It's all about choices...

        Another completely sensible, logical and coherent post from amanfrommars1. That’s the third or fourth this year… (need a am I losing my marbles icon (or have I just found them?))

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: It's all about choices...

          I'm rooting and routing for the latter, James 51.

          Welcome to Live Operational Virtual Environments.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good article but what's the fix

    Every phone tracks your location and everything you do on it.

    Every web browser tracks your browsing and spending habits.

    Every App you use sends back personal info about you.

    The Western governments are tapped into the Inernet backbone and monitor all your private traffic.

    Every internet-of-things device you buy sends your details to their company.

    Permanent surveillance of every where you are and everything you do is now across every platform you use. Even powered off or in standby mode, that stuff is still tracking you.

    You no longer own any device - you are just renting their services, paying with your soul.

    The only solution - disconnect from all technology. And since that ain't gonna happen, we are all fucked.

    Freedom died a long time ago.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Good article but what's the fix

      "Every phone tracks your location and everything you do on it."

      Given the number of times I forget to take my phone it's not very good at tracking my location and not much gets done on it.

    2. Bilious

      Re: Good article but what's the fix

      "Freedom died a long time ago."

      It didn't.

      My keyboard entries on the Web are registered. My surfing preferences and emails too. My telephone is tapped and taped. My travels on public transportation are videotaped and registered on my name, and all passages through the road toll registering points are registered and taped.

      But I can read whatever I like, love any person I like, travel wherever I like - it's just a question of economic means and keeping up good relations to family, neighbours, colleagues and friends. The police never bothers me. I've never done anything remotely criminal, so I have never been in prison.

      In some countries people are bothered by police and priests and criminals and racists and religious bigots - but AFAICS this came centuries before the data slurping. Death penalty for atheism? It cannot be blamed on Google, Apple, Facebook or Apple.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good article but what's the fix

        "But I can read whatever I like, love any person I like, travel wherever I like - it's just a question of economic means and keeping up good relations to family, neighbours, colleagues and friends. The police never bothers me. I've never done anything remotely criminal, so I have never been in prison."

        Really?!

        Delusional.

      2. Spanners Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Good article but what's the fix

        The fact that the police hardly ever bother you tells me that there is a 90% probability that you are a white Anglo Saxon male over the age of 35

        How close was I?

        That is why they rarely bother me. We are not in any watch groups.

      3. JohnFen

        Re: Good article but what's the fix

        However, you are no longer free to live a private life.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Good article but what's the fix

      "Every web browser tracks your browsing and spending habits."

      Well, you could try lynx, although it's not that useful on the modern web.

  7. JimmyPage
    FAIL

    Signal/noise ...

    The more they gather, the more they have to store and analyse. At which point any "value" decreases exponentially.

    Google itself is the best examplar. Those of us who remember Lycos, AltaVista, Magellan et al already know that Google is slowly dying on it's arse. Even in the past 12 months, there's been a marked decline in the "quality" (or otherwise) of even simple search terms.

    (In fact, I suspect a lot of Google is now - like Ourubouros - a circular loop where it returns search results based mainly on the search results other users have clicked on.)

    Either way, I suspect that come 2020, as an arbitrary point in the future, there will be more data, and less knowledge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Signal/noise ...

      YouTube searches are similarly getting very hit&miss. Type in a two word unique user name and it is halfway down the results page - preceded by entries which have the words separately.

      Enclose the two words in quotes and it doesn't find it at all - at least on the first couple of pages of results. It does find lots of entries with the two words in separate places though.

      There is no obvious explanation of that matching behaviour.

      There used to be a time when Google would return your old comments from various online fora when searching on your unique user name. Nowadays it usually fails to find any.

      1. 's water music
        Coat

        Re: Signal/noise ...

        @Anonymous Coward There used to be a time when Google would return your old comments from various online fora when searching on your unique user name. Nowadays it usually fails to find any.

        I have a theory about why this might be happening to you...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Every phone tracks your location and everything you do on it.

    By a old style phone.

    Every web browser tracks your browsing and spending habits.

    Firefox Quantum (plus likes of No Script etc installed), Startpage for search.

    Every App you use sends back personal info about you.

    See 1st comment

    The Western governments are tapped into the Inernet backbone and monitor all your private traffic.

    VPN

    Every internet-of-things device you buy sends your details to their company.

    Don't fucking buy this tat.

    Permanent surveillance of every where you are and everything you do is now across every platform you use.

    Remove battery or even stick in Faraday bag.

    Pay cash (this is the big new area of tracking)

    1. Spangle

      What if you use orbot and orfox with noscript and startpage as a browser, use noroot firewall to limit app connections and use protonmail instead of gmail?

      I know its not as effective as rooting your phone but surely its got to hinder data collection?

      If its not i'm interested in any suggestions to improve my browsing habits.

    2. Flywheel Silver badge

      old style phone

      It'll still track you as you move from cell (tower) to cell, but not with the same accuracy as a Smartphone.

      One day, offenders will be terminated by drone using Smartphone positioning - I'm sure it's happening now though.

      1. JohnFen

        "It'll still track you as you move from cell (tower) to cell, but not with the same accuracy as a Smartphone."

        In the US, this is not true -- most feature phones can be tracked with similar accuracy as smart phones, due to legal requirements to be able to locate cell phones for emergency purposes. Most phone contain GPS receivers, even if the GPS functionality is not available to the user of the phone.

  9. find users who cut cat tail

    Surveillance utopianism?

    Read The Happy Breed by John Sladek (written in 1967!). And that is actually ‘optimistic’ scenario without any evil companies invovled...

  10. Adam 52 Silver badge

    So where do you draw the line? Sellers have been analysing their customer's habits for millennia, from the first travelling traders and earlier.

    Arkwright's Stores knows that Mrs Jones always comes in for a loaf of bread on Tuesday's, and the fishmonger knew she'd always have cod on Friday.

    Is it wrong for a supermarket to track the number of cornflake packets they sell? Not really. Is it wrong for them to track that people prefer Cadbury chocolate to Hershey's vomit-chocolate, again not really. Or that people buy more Turkey in the run up to a Christmas? Or that predominantly Muslim areas don't buy Turkey in the same way that Christian areas do?

    Some (possibly almost all) of what Facebook does is smelly. Some of Google's is pretty evil too. Experian and Equifax are almost entirely evil. But we soon will have legislation that puts control in the hands of people not tech corporations *if* enforced properly. If we can get that extended to the credit reference agencies, or even their immunity from libel damages removed, then I think we'll be in a pretty good place.

    1. John G Imrie
      Unhappy

      Er Brexit

      But we soon will have legislation that puts control in the hands of people not tech corporations

      And that will soon be repealed as part of our wonderful trading deal with the US

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: Er Brexit

        Sorry my spelling is off today s/wonderful/woeful/ to my above post

  11. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    Strangle them at source - but where is the control or visibility?

    I still think there's not enough easily accessible and usable options for controlling how devices and applications have access to various resources. Users need easier access to control options and to be able to visibly understand and decide what the technology they're using is doing.

    For example, it should be trivially easy on any OS or platform to sandbox a program or app entirely from local or network resources, but it just isn't, on anything. We lack the ability to use software at our own discretion of trust. In fact, everything seems to be engineered in entirely the opposite way. And it's not that convenience really depends on our blind trust, it's just that we're being abused in to thinking so.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corporations/Social Media collect the information.

    Government won't stop them because they want access to the information plus they lobby and take roles within government to keep it all sweet.

    The main stream press won't complain or report too negatively on them because they want access to the information. I take note of how many articles have "FB" or "Facebook" in a picture they use.

    They have the foot in the door and it's not coming out.

    Try telling people or complaining about it and you are labelled as paranoid with something to hide.

    I wish it wasn't so but it's going to be too late once people wake up in that particular "Paradise"/Hell.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deleting the Uber app from my smartphone this year cost me convenience and dollars

    and that's why no calls to revolution won't work - once they gave you the first "FREE!" app hit, that "oh, this map app is wonderful, how did I EVER live without it?!" feeling, the "wow, I can speak to my mates on the phone FREE!" - you're done, once and for all. Multiply that by 9/10 of the world population who feel likewise, and the homo (sapiens, no less) are staying in this"lie back and think of England" position (some lube, dear?). To paraphrase a quote, it's not people who did "that" to other people, it's people who asked for it - and got it. We're fucked, irrevocably.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The "Special" generation

    Unfortunately it is our own fault. We have allowed things to become this way.

    We have taken everything to the extreme. Can't bully people (ok, fair enough), but then if you say something that someone takes offence to (usually by proxy) then you are in the wrong and a bully.

    Can't even bloody play cops and robbers with finger guns without someone taking offence.

    We want the latest technology... but I'm not a bloody techie, I just want it to work!!

    Children are brought up to believe that they are special above all others, and we can't have any losers. In fact lets get rid of activities where there is the possibility of someone coming out lesser than someone else. We have bubble wrapped kids to the point they don't think there is anything that can hurt them, and so they don't need to worry about it.

    This has bred a generation that thinks their voice deserves, nay demands to be heard (no matter how inane or stupid said thought is), but without the critical thinking to first ask the question, this platform that I am using to shout my thoughts off of, is it actually stable and secure.

    Ok, this (hopefully) does not apply to most Reg readers, but this is the world we live in and the world that we deserve.

    Show me a single "average" user who actually reads the terms and conditions.

    I'll get me coat... it's the one with the EMP in the pocket.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: The "Special" generation

      Um. You seem to have forgotten the part where you draw any kind of logical link between your tired, stereotypical "snowflake" argument and your response to this article.

      Meanwhile back in the real world, all the empirical data I've seen suggests that younger people are as concerned as, or more concerned than, older people about privacy.

  15. Jimboom

    As long as something is offered for free then people get blinkered to anything else. Can't tell you the amount of times I have looked at horror at the permissions of apps some people have installed.

    But I don't do facebook, twitter, uber or any of that things. Some family members look at me funny because of it. But personally I like the fact I have a very low online presence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am fascinated as to why anyone would down vote this comment.

      Google / FB Bot perhaps?

  16. Joe Harrison

    I love it

    It's impossible to secure your stuff against determined adversaries, no matter how smart you are. But the article just said that the adversaries barely even have to try because 99% are happy to not put up any obstacle anyway.

    So now I only have to secure against a half-slightly-bothered adversary, which means if I make it just medium-difficult then my own information will be lost in the noise.

  17. JRBobDobbs

    What can you trust..

    "You’ll never know if a day’s worth of subtle manipulations embedded within every digital interaction hadn’t planted that desire for that bottle of wine."

    This really is the point. 'Surveillance' suggests a passive system collecting data on us - but its already way beyond that: we're not just being surveilled, we are being manipulated, having our moods and desires 'nudged' and ultimately we're being controlled. This has always happened in 'meat-space' of course, but its the targeted, intelligent and personalised nature of the new technologies the manipulated so much more powerful.

  18. The obvious

    "there's still time to unplug it" - are you sure about that?

    I tried it once, blocking google and all their other insidious services (entirely) is utterly impossible.

    Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. The products you directly use, search, mail, maps are easy switches. The products you don't see (like analytics) you can lose easily. What about the stuff another site uses? fonts, api's etc all of a sudden things get very complicated!

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. WatAWorld

    Even more seriously everything these companies know about us will be known by intelligence agencies

    Even more seriously, everything that these capitalist companies know about us will be known by intelligence agencies.

    All of the habits and weaknesses of our future elected officials, jurors, judges, CEOs, professors, our (and their) intelligence agencies will know them because they'll have captured that information from the companies.

    We'll become Chekist countries (countries run by their intelligence agencies and intelligence agency alumni) -- just as Russia is currently.

    A spy agency wants more intrusive spying on the public it is supposed to protect and the legislators, courts, press that are supposed to regulate it -- with what they know about us regulators, the courts, and the press will just have to quitely grant them those outrageous additional spying privileges.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      When everything these companies know about us will be known by intelligence agencies

      Even more seriously, everything that these capitalist companies know about us will be known by intelligence agencies. .... WatAWorld

      Smarter use of that information by intelligent agencies to provide future raw prime novel resourceful source metadatabase for Augmented Virtual Realisation and Mass Media Presentation is surely their Duty and Role.

      Peoples expect it. Or is that to Mankind, Alien and Unexpected/Disruptive and Revolutionary/Quantum Evolutionary?

      What they been providing national leaders for servering in the future if not raw prime novel resourceful source metadatabase materiel?

  21. Danny 5

    hmmmm

    I joined the internet in the time when it was absolutely unheard of to share your personal information with anyone, anonymity was the key to every and all dealings you had online. I'm still awestruck by the ease with which people divulge their personal details. Real names, real addresses and every connection traceable to physical people and locations. I still don't feel comfortable to use my real name anywhere (although it has become quite easy to expose me, due to my connections).

    I don't want appliances that listen to me, I don't want appliances that can see me. I have a cover for the camera in my laptop. I consider myself borderline paranoid online, but I'm convinced I'm doing so for a very good reason.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lemming world

    They said they were going to introduce ID card and everyone went nuts.

    Skip forward a decade of so and the plan has been executed to perfection with the public of the world actually paying for it themselves with bells on.

    Facebook and googles of the world seem to be swimming in billions and you have to wonder

    how much of it is from funds that would have been spent in the earlier undeliverable plan.

    Flippin annoying considering crime has exploded due to lack of policing which has just turned into

    reporting so idiots have something to talk about on social media.

    Cant think of a solution except do the opposite of what you are being badgered to do.

    This week no amazon echo for me due to the constant bludgeoning regarding amazon echo.

  23. wolfetone Silver badge

    I have told this story before, but 2 years ago we had British Gas come round to quote us on a new boiler. He asked if I wanted the Hive thermostat which I promptly said no to. He was a bit shocked, asked why I said no when usually everyone wants them. I said if I can turn the heating up in my home from my phone, some other jackass could too.

    The other week it came out that the Amazon Door Bell webcam thing could be stopped from working, allowing whoever is around to just happily waltz in your home and steal your TV. The most outrageous thing about that was people have actually bought this device!

    A few days ago I'm speaking to the wife's friend about Christmas and she said she's bought her fella an Amazon Alexa thing from Black Friday:

    Me: "Why do you want that thing listening in to your conversations?"

    Her: "It doesn't, it only comes on when you ask it to."

    Me: "But it has to be listening to everything in your conversation in order to know you've called it."

    Her: ".... Why are you so paranoid? We don't talk about anything interesting."

    That, right there, is the problem. Joe Public thinks their conversations are so boring they're not worth listening to. Their lives are so mundane that no one would possibly want to watch them on a webcam. They're not important enough to have someone spy on their baby cams or baby's toys while their child plays with them. If you raise the issue with them, they think you're paranoid. "What have YOU got to hide? What have YOU done that you don't want anyone to find out about? Are YOU a terrorist or a child molester or both?".

    At the risk of losing whatever argument on the internet this might generate, I have to bring in the Nazi's as an example. It's that exact context, that exact line of thought that led to millions losing their livelihoods, homes, their life and ultimately their existence through death camps. All because of the line "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear", something William Hauge came out with a few years ago when talking about the snoopers charter.

    While I am optimistic that the tide will change against all of this privacy erosion, realistically it's far too late to be worrying about it now. The damage is done. The youth of today have been sucked in to it. Blind ignorance is bliss to them, so why would they bother to step outside the room for a moment and wonder whether corporations and governments should be doing what they're doing.

    Me? Well I'll continue to use my laptop with the webcam taped over and the front facing camera on my phone covered until I can upgrade to something more prehistoric.

  24. WatAWorld

    Accept the fact that the real threat to basic freedom is government, not capitalism

    I worry much more about the people with guns, prisons and drones knowing every detail of our lives and beliefs than I do about whether companies trying to deliver us advertising we are interested in.

    Sure, Google is currently trending towards supporting totalitarian authoritarianism with its endorsement of conformist group-think, cultural marxism, and silencing of dissenting peaceful political opinions (just like the original Bolsheviks and original Nazis)

    But unlike the Bolsheviks and Nazis Google doesn't have its own force of armed thugs.

    Our intelligence agencies and theirs do.

    So long as Google (Youtube), Facebook, Apple and Microsoft do NOT start running government, they won't be running secret police forces, black sites. Sure they'll be de-platforming liberals (liberals are people who believe in tolerance towards the peaceful contrary opinions of others) but they won't

    "disappearing" them in large numbers.

    Assassinating large numbers of outspoken members of the public, that is a government thing, a thing governments controlled by violent totalitarian authoritarians do.

    That could happen here. But if it does it will be driven as it was in 1930s Germany by totalitarianism and authoritarianism exported by intolerant student groups and radical political parties.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Accept the fact that the real threat to basic freedom is government, not capitalism

      And the problem is that Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc are the tools the goverments will be and are using. See PRISM, etc.

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Accept the fact that the real threat to basic freedom is government, not capitalism

      But unlike the Bolsheviks and Nazis Google doesn't have its own force of armed thugs.

      Our intelligence agencies and theirs do. ... WatAWorld

      Does the like of a Google, when demanded of by ruthless and struggling governments, not already provide targets for intelligent agency attention which do have their own forces of armed thugs/mercenary soldiers?

      Do they not work hand in glove in a sort of clandestine, semi-covert protection racket in favour of retaining and maintaining current status quo arrangements?

  25. Spacebots

    Nothing ever truly new

    People don't realise how the surveillance society has been around for decades. It was going on even before the age of the Internet.

    I recall seeing a documentary on TV at least twenty years ago, maybe thirty, about how Great Universal Stores had a database with details of every single citizen of the UK, including children. It showed how they could target advertising to people based on any aspect of their life, such as toys to families with children, music and fashion to teenagers, home furnishings and DIY to people who were potentially getting married and setting up their first homes, then looking forward to retirement as they got older.

    Of course, GUS didn't just keep this information for themselves, it was available to other companies for a fee. A database like that was/is worth a fortune. It's a standing joke amongst myself and my friends who are all a similar age, how we all got a pile of posts from Saga, the moment we passed our fiftieth birthdays. That's because we'd all been tracked on a database for decades previously. There are children born last week, who will probably be getting similar communications in fifty years time. their lives will be continuously tracked from day one.

  26. Palpy

    Possible that opting out --

    -- may become somewhat punishable.

    An acquaintance of mine is disabled, and was trying to find affordable housing. The market here is very tight. Being quite skint, he had always paid in cash or checks for everything; no plastic. Several property management companies turned down his applications to rent because he has no credit history.

    Future: "Terribly sorry, we can't sell you a car. You've insufficient data in the GoogBook registry for us to evaluate." Or "Membership in our discount store is denied; insufficient customer data in GoogBook."

    Who knows, though. Any coercive commercial tactic can be an opening for startups emphasizing non-coercion, non-tracking, non-spying.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Possible that opting out --

      Yep, there's more and more of this. I quite like my city council in a lot of ways, but one thing that drives me up the wall about them is their cheerful willingness to use foreign hosted services in critical online processes. I can't file my property tax without doing some unpaid labor teaching Google how to identify cars (thanks, reCAPTCHA, for nothing). Whenever they run any kind of survey it's inevitably done through some third-party US company. Grr.

  27. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Looking at the SMARTR Option

    There are fabulous opportunities readily available to all, to provide to systems which are dependent upon snooping/phishing/surveillance/monitoring and mentoring ..... and all SCADA Systems are so reliant and catastrophically vulnerable to such activity .... that which one thinks that they need to assist them in leading intelligently with increasing support for that which is revealed to be leading.

    And you can't do any of that if you do not exercise appropriately an online virtual presence.

    But you will encounter in current positions of power, the virtually braindead and less than well enough intellectually equipped who would have no idea about how to proceed in what is undoubtedly a Brave New Age. Whenever that happens, ignore them and move on to greener pastures/better minds.

    The world is awash with frauds cloaked in powers which they can possibly command but not absolutely control and reliant upon mysterious anonymous third parties to remain in office.

  28. David Nash

    Privacy vs. Convenience

    Some people smugly claim that they don't use Google, don't have a Smart phone, etc. etc. so they are not affected. Unfortunately it's not as simple as trading a little convenience for privacy. It's not just convenience, it's entertainment, information, research, my kids' homework, and increasingly the way of doing business these days.

    I try to avoid it where possible, don't use FB, am wary of signing up for things online, but you can't avoid it all without going to full hermit mode. Opting out has more consequences than simply losing a little convenience.

    1. Stork Silver badge

      Re: Privacy vs. Convenience

      Spot on: "...the way of doing business these days"

      We run a small company, renting out holiday cottages in Portugal. I can tell you it is not ideas that stop us doing new things or doing things better, it is lack of time.

      So, try to block all scripts and you will not check many competitor websites. Or use your online channels/advertising sites/e-banking/compulsory upload of data to goverment/...

      We need a website, so we bought a template that we liked for Joomla! Is it Google-Free? No, it loads google-apis (whatever that does). I _could_ code a simple website by hand, but not up to todays standards - and taking bookings, not making website is what pays the bills.

      In this business it also looks like you need to be on social media - if you are not on Instagram/FB you barely exist to some people.

      I am sorry, but if you are B2C you have limited choice.

  29. David Tallboys

    Use a crisp packet as a Faraday cage.

    There are several news stories about this.

    Can The Reg's readers tell me whether this works.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use a crisp packet as a Faraday cage.

      "Can The Reg's readers tell me whether this works."

      Only as a crisp packet.

  30. 0rdos

    There is something that you can do

    Interesting article - I'm finding more and more that people think that privacy is a good idea but really cannot be bothered to follow best practice. I've actually built an app that is seeking funding which looks to dramatically reduce your data footprint.. the issue is that people like it but wont spend the 5-10 minutes to make a difference. (if your interested, search for getmappd)

    We can wait for people to start experiencing identity theft and surveillance more however by that point people will expect it as the norm, similar to cyber / data breaches.

  31. mensch

    contributing to the problem?

    This is a great article, some really important ideas and relevant facts...I'm just going to share this with my kids...let me email them the article...now where is the email link...hmm...not where I would expect to find it...maybe it's hidden by the Reddit/Twitter/Google+/LinkedIn icons? Pot meet kettle....

  32. sloshnmosh

    I think the average person DOES care..

    I believe it has a lot to do with how much technical knowledge a person has (or wants to have).

    I see lots of people take steps to protect their data at least in some small degree but they clearly have no understanding of how things work and end up giving away the keys to the kingdom.

    Many people have "antivirus" apps on their Android devices because they have at least some concern that their data may get stolen by some "virus" but most of these apps are stealing far more data from their devices than any "real" malware ever could.

    Some of these dodgy "antivirus" developers go so far as to "advertise" their apps by tricking users into installing their warez through the use of fake virus warnings capitalizing on the users inherent fears as well as their lack of technical knowledge.

    I was looking at the web browser 'Brave" the other day, it claims to be pro-privacy and in the browser extension request webpage of Brave users were requesting all kinds of dodgy VPN add-on's and other extensions that would defeat the whole purpose of using Brave.

    I believe that most people care about their privacy/security but "convenience" wins out or users just get overwhelmed.

    It is kind of a pain trying to limit your data footprint, and the more knowledge you have the more you have to do.

    I run a custom OS on my phone with only a few FOSS apps that I personally inspected, script blockers on my web browsers, block a multitude of social media sites on my router and HOSTS file, run BleachBit several times a day, only allow programs through the firewall when needed etc etc...I really feel I was better off 5 years ago when I was blissfully unaware of the things I now know.

    And to hear members of congress or politicians speak..they're either more clueless than everyone or they're all in on it.

    It's all so tiresome.

    (sorry for the rant)

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