democracy, politics, privacy, technology, tips

Verizon and the Sale of the Customer

According to Verizon’s latest update to their privacy policy, they will now “share” (i.e. sell) lots of information that may make customers uncomfortable. Verizon’s changes to their privacy policy, one must assume the term privacy is being used ironically, includes sharing:

Mobile Usage Information:

  • Addresses of websites you visit when using our wireless service. These data strings (or URLs) may include search terms you have used
  • Location of your device (“Location Information”)
  • App and device feature usage

Consumer Information:

  • Information about your use of Verizon products and services (such as data and calling features, device type, and amount of use)
  • Demographic and interest categories provided to us by other companies, such as gender, age range, sports fan, frequent diner, or pet owner (“Demographics”)

Verizon is trying to make users feel better about this by quietly offering a opt out and promising that no personally identifiable information is being sent. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean your personal information isn’t being held back, it just means your name, account number, and the like aren’t being sent.

This is the loop-hole that corporations have carved out for themselves in order to commodify customers. Sell everything about the customer, except for their names. It is a good way to make money. Companies like Verizon are charging people to use the service and then having those customers create a product that it can sell. In return for the service the customer provides Verizon the customer gets nothing. Even as this erosion and commodification of privacy becomes common practice these days, there is not much customers can do.

Corporations like Verizon have the upper-hand and can simply place the onus on the customer and the free-market. If you don’t like how they collect data, don’t give them your business. Never mind that the next company will do the same. Never mind that services like internet and cellphones are essential to modern society.

Giving those who oppose regulations the benefit of the doubt, lets say they often miss this important fact— that corporations have only their best interest at heart, and that many (though obviously not all) of their services are not optional. A democratic society should protect its citizen from the corporations which have become micro-oligarchs.

politics, technology

Number One Reason for Net Neutrality

A while back I emailed my representatives and told them what I think of net neutrality. I got back some silly response kindly saying that I was wrong and that net neutrality was bad for business and hurts innovation etc etc. Now it is pretty easy to argue that those things are false. There really aren’t any quality arguments against net neutrality. That said, there are some pretty silly arguments for net neutrality too.

And yet, one ridiculous sounding pro net neutrality argument got a full turn around just recently. It’s the argument is that corporations could censor the web. Why isn’t it silly anymore? It appears that AT&T has done just that, just this week it was reported that AT&T censored anit-Bush lyrics during a webcast of a Pearl Jam concert.

We live in a world where corporations control just about everything, but the internet is the one place that still has some semblance of freedom. If large corporations are allowed to have their way they’ll destroy the internet as we know it. Period.

So, I’ve written back to my representatives, told them that I don’t buy their arguments and that I expect them to do their duty and protect the public interest. We’ll see how it goes.


High ground, a Corporate Illusion

We don’t view that kind of activity as an appropriate activity for one partner to do to another…

eBay spokesman Hani Durzy

eBay was a bit upset because Google planned an event to promote Google Checkout on the same night eBay is holding a Paypal event. As payback eBay pulled all their ads with Google and issued a statement about being “disappointed.” Of course Google has a pretty good case for being disappointed with eBay since eBay has banned Google Checkout from their site. eBay is clearly trying to keep the competition out. Considering how much of a cut they get of each transaction that happens on their site once you add the eBay & Paypal charges it’s easy to see why they’d want Google to steer clear of them. They suck for banning Google Checkout, but fine, it’s their website they can do what they want— even if it sucks for customers.

Still, it is worth wondering that if eBay realizes what a hypocritical bullshit thing it is to pretend you are taking the high ground.