Tech scandal and privacy concerns don’t stand a chance

When the world longs for convenience and immediacy, our morals and best interests take a back seat

I just pulled off the 405 to a McDonalds on Crenshaw Blvd. I smiled when I saw that the MileIQ app — recently acquired by Microsoft and constantly monitoring my location in the background — had correctly noticed my commute and I was able to Swipe Right to see my tax-deductible total figure spin ever upwards.

MileIQ: “Automatic detection. One-swipe classification. Mileage logging has never been easier.”

I was struck by how many windshield stickers for Uber — embroiled in allegations of systemic mismanagement of sexual harassment, guilty of scabbing during a labor strike, and openly planning the deprecation of an enormous workforce — I’d seen already today. I was briefly thankful that LAX now accommodates ride sharing business to beat out those stuffy cabs who until recently didn’t even have an App!

I connected to the free McDonals AT&T wifi — no doubt monitoring my every key stoke and almost certainly silently sharing a stream of my pre-coffee face via my MacBook Pro webcam — because, free wifi is the malt liquor of the limited cellular data plan.

For all the outrage and disgust we level at these companies, for all the pitchfork wagging and disgust, the reality is that nothing will change. People will uninstall Uber for a little while, and then re-install when they’re tired and it’s late and they need a ride. They’ll turn off location services on their phone for a while after reading something scary on engadget, but quickly re-enable once they realize Pokemon Go needs location services enabled. We’ll avoid public wifi like the plague until our cell battery is low and we need to check in for our un-paid-shift scanning facebook.

I was staunchly opposed to Chick-fil-a — closed on Sunday chicken place whose founder supported the gay marriage ban — until I was stuck overnight in a Dallas airport and was hungry. It was delicious.

I get the feeling we need to stop personifying companies. Stop thinking they are morally grounded — they are, after all, profit machines incentivized solely to make as much money as they can by any means possible.

Companies aren’t fallible like humans. Wells Fargo — opened 2 million phony accounts because of greed and misaligned incentives — showed that the lack of moral judgment seen at a company level can far exceed the scale of human errors.

I don’t have a cute solution to this. Don’t go calling your local representative etc. Just be real and introspective about your outrage and weigh it against your silent, complicit participation in an economy rooted in convenience and immediacy. A few precise tweets or hashtags won’t even things out.

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