Privacy is the new black

Two of the biggest surveillance capitalists, Facebook and Google, are now talking about privacy, as if it is the new thing. Whilst you may think that they’re finally waking up and realizing that people need to be assured of the privacy of their data, best to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

First, Mark Zuckerberg, in his lengthy post, revealed his privacy-focused plans. Concentrating on end-to-end encryption of messaging on all of their platforms, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, to assure data suppliers (or what they deliberately miscall as users, remember Facebook’s users are advertisers) that their privacy is kept. This may be surprising to a lot of people, but it is nothing but a mis-direction, a ploy.

Second, Google just released the next Android version, Android Q, in beta, available for their Pixel line of smartphones. Tech pundits celebrate the changes introduced on this Android version, specially on making data suppliers’ data private. The popular marketing spiel is that with Android Q, your smartphone is more privacy focused.

Still a Wolf

What these two companies don’t reveal is how they are changing their data collection, their surveillance. Frankly, nothing changes, it is business as usual. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram conversations will be encrypted, hidden from Facebook, but the metadata, e.g., who are in the conversation, when their communicating, from where, which devices, etc., are still collected, and in fact, has more value for Facebook than the actual conversations.

Google’s Android Q may restrict third party applications from unauthorized access to data suppliers’ data (and telemetry), but it does not mean that Google will not have access. True, Android Q is more privacy oriented — but this does not apply to Google.

Move Fast, Break Things, Say Sorry

We are all witnesses to how many times Facebook and Google pushed the boundaries of their data collection, bordering from creepy to highly unethical. The uproar is almost always short-lived, once you get a “sorry (but not so sorry)”, everything is all good, but nothing changes.

The Change We Need

If Facebook and Google are serious about respecting people’s privacy, then they need to be transparent — how are they going to make money in this privacy-focused ploy? If they are going to remain as surveillance capitalists, collecting all types of data, tracking each and every online activity everywhere on the internet, and manipulating behaviour via their algorithms, then nothing has changed even with their privacy-focused pitch.