Dear Valued Customer,
Hello, this is a letter from the head of a major internet site, regarding your rights. You don’t have any. So shut up.
We regret the recent incident which threatened the security of every user to our site, and, due to the inherent nature of networked communication and the lack of human ability to remember an infinite number of arbitrary words, their security on any number of other sites. We regret it because it may impact our profit model, which is already predicated on a fiction so thin that it’s the distillation of the entire illusion of capitalism. We certainly don’t regret it because it affects you.
I want to take a moment to talk to you, yes, you. Our customer. Well, actually, our product. It’s really the same thing these days. I want to tell you, personally, on a deeply real level, how I feel. I can do this, because I know how you feel. I know what you eat, where you sleep, your relationship status, I know your fucking heartbeat and the number of steps you take each day. So, I understand you. And I care. I care about you, because you are the future of this company.
It’s adorable, it really is, how you like to think of this company as a person. It’s much easier to take that as a model than to deal with the nuance of realizing that a corporation is a collection of individuals with individual ideas, overlaid with a thin veneer of corporate culture and profit models. Much easier to think of it as a person. A moody person, maybe, but one who cares. And certainly, some of us care. I care, as previously mentioned, and I’m pretty sure Dan in HR cares, and Karen the graphic designer, God, she won’t stop talking about how much she cares about everything, especially if it’s got fur or is in a third-world country. On the other hand, Roger, who writes our EULA? I’m pretty sure he only cares about his car payments. That man would torture puppies if he thought it would shift our Q3 earnings.
But, no, it’s easier to think of us as a single monolithic entity, because you can’t be bothered with nuance, as usual. So I’m here to talk to you, as the face of the company, and you can imagine my easy grin and my “what can ya do” shrug as I explain to you that you should absolutely have zero expectation of human behavior from us.
We changed the TOS. And a bunch of people got their accounts shut down. We had a db sharding issue and some people lost photos of their kids. We outsourced our hardware production to people in China working for cents a day so you can have your yelp reviews in your pocket. We appointed to our board someone from the federal government with a history of supporting wiretapping at every opportunity and we promise, cross our hearts (if we had one, but remember, we’re a company, we don’t have a heart to cross), that we will never ever ever look at your data. Pinky swear. What do you want us to say? What will convince you that you can trust us? Because we’ll say it, and then when it turns out that by “not look at your data” we meant “well, we didn’t look at it while we sent it to the NSA”, we’ll give you that easy smile and that shrug, and pretend like anything is going to change.
And do you know why we do this? Because you want us to. You persist in thinking, depending on what’s more convenient for you, that we’re either people, or that we are somehow beholden to the laws of a dinosaur State that can’t even decide where to put a stop sign without three subcommittees and a protest. They can’t legislate anything we do, by the time they have a third draft of some law designed to limit us, the engineering department will have rewritten the interface so the user has no choice in what happens and Legal will have found a way to redefine us as a non-profit. In a world where we can disrupt the lives of thousands of people with a single line of code written at 3 am on a red bull bender, they just can’t keep up with us.
So, I want to take this moment to thank you, Valued Customer. Your willful blindness as to the real reasons we do things is the single most important factor in the future success of this company. We’re doing all we can to make life better for you, and the more you pretend that we exist according to the models of the 20th century, and the less you realize that we, largely a group of poorly socialized men whose only experience of deprivation is getting our latte cold, are creating, ad hoc, the models of the 21st century as we go, the happier we’ll both be. We’re not beholden to human values, because we are not a human. We’re not beholden to the State, we are the new State. We are the emergent avalanche of the next century, and everyone will be happier if you just follow along and keep pretending it’s still the previous one.
Please check the box to indicate you understand, and click Continue.
[Edit: changed the title to the far better one suggested by Nich]