By Sushil Kutty
Ten hours of questioning and Mark Zuckerberg still managed to put ‘evasive’ over ‘evident’. But the evasives are adding up and by the time Zuckerberg is back in Silicon Valley, back to his t-shirt and jeans avatar, they will be a mountain he and his staff will have to climb. Mr. Zuckerberg has so far used “will ask my team to follow up” to evade every question thrown at him. His shirt collar was certainly cleaner than the t-shirt he usually sports but his answers were grimy.
One of the questions repeatedly asked of Zuckerberg was how much data does Facebook collect on users – and non-users? Yep, non-users! Facebook is always collecting data and quite a lot of it ‘quietly’ about non-users, too. The Facebook CEO gave his dorm innocence look every time but was cornered once and had to admit that Facebook collected data from users even when they’re not on Facebook and not even logged in to the platform.
Guess that puts Facebook in the driver’s seat even when Facebook users think their data is in the FB ‘settings’, secure as a baby in her crib. Guess again. Facebook has data about complete strangers, never logged, never clicked ‘like’ or ‘share’. That is the bigger cover-up. Tech giants like Facebook and Google, besides being evasive, are also invasive. They invade your privacy going back to your grandmother, in many cases right back to great grandmother.
Facebook might compare itself to the telegraph and the telephone but Mark Zuckerberg is not Thomas Edison, his motives and operations are far less edifying. Every time Zuckerberg was evasive and said he’ll have his “team follow up”, he was acknowledging that Facebook grew from “dorm to behemoth” feeding on data gleaned/gathered from 2 billion idiots who signed up on it.
Google must be following Zuckerberg’s mild inquisition with great interest because that tech giant is a 100 times more invasive and pervasive. And it’s an Indian, Sundar Pichai, who sits in the driver’s seat in Google. Google and Facebook have a superb relationship with the government of India and this is no less scary.
Google now sells products that check your offline activities as surely as your two eyes can see with the clarity that comes with a 20/20 vision. According to American experts, Google is monitoring people over 200 different platforms, monitoring people when they are online and when they are offline.
The smartphone that you take pride in and in which you store, if not all, vital pieces of data, is always recording even without your SIM in it. And that is not a joke or fake news. It is a proven fact. The Google home-device which the techie giant has been convincing everybody to put in each of the rooms of one’s house is also always listening, always recording.
So, why are these companies dangerous if left only to “self-regulation”? Three reasons: One, surveillance. Two, censorship. And three, manipulation, probably the most dangerous of all. They do all three with ‘listening and recording’; with the power they amass with the massive amounts of data surrendered to them by users or obtained clandestinely and, finally, the more information these companies have on people, the more influence they have on people, i.e., able to shift opinions, views, political inclinations…
Questions should be asked: “Do BJP MPs carry their smartphones into brainstorming sessions called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Do ministers carry their smartphones to cabinet meetings? Doesn’t matter if they are switched off or on, every snatch of their conversations is being recorded by Facebook and Google using the tens of thousands of apps these tech companies have created or have business with, embedded in their smartphones.
The extent of data collection these tech companies have is what keeps them growing. It is their core concern. If they stopped collecting data their business models will go kaput; if not tomorrow, definitely over a period of time. Throughout the 10 hours of hearing so far, Zuckerberg has been stonewalling questions on privacy and data abuse with “I’ll have my team follow-up”.
And, so far, Google and Facebook and Twitter have been having a field day under the guise of a “tech company’ when they are in reality media appendages of information behemoths with immense power, all because Google and Facebook have the “trust” of their users.
Well, think again. And governments, stop being like a bump on a log. Wake up and get your acts together. As for the people, don’t let your likes and shares screw up your present and your future. Stop posting your children’s pictures on Facebook. And, mind you, every time you draft a gmail, you’re telling Google who you are communicating with, on what, why? You think you’re alone and secure in your office cubicle or darkened bedroom, you are not. Big Brother is looking over your shoulder. And he is far worse than he was “1984”. (IPA Service)
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