Zuckerberg in DC exposes how little our governments understand where humanity is heading
Mark Zuckerberg has spent this week sitting in a giant hall having people who know nothing about the nuances of technology, and the way the internet monetises itself, telling him what he is doing is wrong. It’s important because it shows how little our elected officials are aware of where society is heading.
Zuckerberg answered questions in a very matter of fact way. To give him the benefit of the doubt, he answered truthfully, but also knowing that the policies and terms his business hold are there to protect and indemnify his business from action.
When you sign up to a service you agree to its terms. When you download an app and link it to your profile, you agree to what information they take from you and how that company is able to use it.
We’ve not been unaware of this fact because we’ve all done it. We’ve all said, “yes you may have access to my camera” when you install an app on your phone. But we’ve been willfully ignorant of what that actually means. And the senate was very right to make it explicitly clear to Mark that the vast, vast majority of people who use his company have no idea what they’re agreeing to.
It’s sad to have to remind people of the fact that if a product is free then they’re actually the product. It’s also sad to have to reference an episode of South Park that exposed years ago just how fragile the click-yes-to-agree TOS culture we live in is ripe for problems.
And that’s where this problem rests. As far as I’m aware, legally, Facebook has done nothing wrong. Their terms are so broad and their permissions so prevalent that they can individually look at any case of “wrong-doing” and say that the person who feels slighted agreed to the things that they feel wronged by.
So the solution therefore is legislate, right?
Of course it is. In the EU data protection and privacy laws exist and are much stricter than they are in America. And because it’s a bloc of countries you can establish a uniform standard that makes the interconnected society we live in today.
This feeds into an issue that’s been on Americans minds recently, in the form of net neutrality. It’s all well and good repealing that concept and allowing ISPs to control themselves. But that’s in America. Any legislation the USA passes to control Facebook and other social networks handling of their citizens’ data applies only to America. So what fucking use is a law if it only applies in America when dealing with a company that has its tentacles smothering every corner of the globe.
America has been aware of this problem for a while now but hasn’t acted upon it because the media has had no interest in trying to police it: gambling. It is illegal to gamble in the state of New York. But some bloke in Yonkers can log into his computer and place a bet on Duke to beat Kansas and there’s basically fuck all the government can do because the company processing that bet is based in Gibraltar.
So if you can’t govern or you can’t control the ways that your people are moving through life then what can you do?
Realistically? Learning to accept that we’re truly moving into a global society. We have this functionality, well it’s not really functionality anymore, it’s just a part of human existence: the internet. And as the years go by the amount we use it to live our daily lives will only increase. It exposes the very core problem the world faces today, but is actually something we’ve seen broken down and overcome over history before: nation states.
Nations are just the extension of what humans have developed over time as a way to streamline quality of life for all within them. When we first started grouping together thousands of years ago we were tribes, then tribes settled down and became villages, into towns and so on. Civilisation is at a key precipice where those in power want to protect what is already theirs without accepting that the future is a world where there are no borders, there is no distinction between human to human, we’re all part of the same group.
The internet was the game-changer, it is making us ask questions about how we relate and deal with each other on a level we never thought we’d have to. And it exposes the limitations of the systems our governments have to make our lives better.
I hate this example but it really does crystalise what i’m getting at: in science fiction when you have a ship crew off meeting aliens and all that bollocks they never present themselves as representatives of America or Russia or Brazil or whoever. They are almost always from Earth. They’re human, they’re standard bearers for the human race.
As hopelessly idealistic as that is, it is the eventuality of our pursuit of happiness. One day we will all march from the same drum , the values we hold dear won’t differ from region to region, they will be commonly held human values. It’s why now people are exasperated when beliefs held in one part of the world are not shared in another. The only reason that shock exists is because we’re able to communicate freely and rapidly those ideas because of the internet.
This trial of public opinion of Facebook is important because it will show how weak the world we live in today is at understanding where we’re headed as a global community. Words will be said, apologies noted, laws passed, but the problems will grow. Companies will not moderate their behaviour totally because they only have to accede to individual nations. Did you know that there are different qualities of Coca-Cola around the world? They categorise them on a scale. Japan and the United Kingdom have the highest quality Coca-Cola, places like Africa have the worst. That exists because the laws in different countries enforce different practices from the same company. That’s how flawed a nation-state government is.
Humanity as we know it exists because humans seek out the path of least resistance. We’re not the strongest, we’re not the fastest, but we are the smartest. We hunted in packs with tools because we can outwit a beast. We grouped together because it simplified survival. But as time has gone by we haven’t adapted to this next stage of evolution. We view the digital age as partnership when in reality it is very much going to be an extension of who we are and how we operate. Now more than ever we need lawmakers and citizens to be cognisant of how important it is we appreciate the world we’re in now. Not entering, we’re in it. Right now, we’re at the first few hurdles to our next ascension.
The issue at hand is so few can see it.