Let me make something clear: I am pro dick pic. I mean, who doesn’t love the occasional consensual staring contest with a one eyed bandit? When Edward Snowden told everyone to keep taking dick pictures on Last Week Tonight, he was making an important point. Governments are meant to be accountable to people and controlled by them in democracies. Leaving aside any specific analysis of how much or whether America is really a democracy, Snowden’s message is profound and valid. We should have that freedom, and we have it by practicing that freedom at our governments. But we should be on a dick pic strike nevertheless.
The corporations that make all the products we use to archive our genitalia work on a completely different model. They are answerable to investors, managers and boards, and entirely in the form of money. They are only answerable to their customers, who are the citizens meant to be in power over the governments that occupy the same society as they do, insofar as those customers are damaging to their profits. Right now, treating people’s privacy like it’s an industrial waste product getting poured into the drinking water isn’t hurting anyone’s profits.
It’s not the NSA that introduced the bugs and design flaws that have ended up with our dick pic collections spilling onto the internet, or even into their own collections. It’s the simple fact that the technology we use hasn’t been designed to meet our needs or empower our lives in any way that doesn’t directly contribute to the bottom line of companies that are, for the most part, selling our lives to advertisers. There is no possible democratic reform that tells them to secure our dick pics, no great national and legislative conversation. It is literally illegal for them to put the public good above turning a quick and vast profit (See correction in notes). If we want to have that conversation, we have to vote with our wallets and our habits.
If your dick pics were properly encrypted by the service you use, and your device well-crafted by the company you bought it from, the government wouldn’t have your dick pics anyway. More importantly for most people, random assholes on the internet wouldn’t be trading them to each other like baseball cards and posting them on forums and blogs. Vicious exes wouldn’t be posting revenge pictures to ruin people. Credit cards wouldn’t drop on the internet like snow in Boston. Email archives would be private. The Interview could have opened on time, and most of us wouldn’t have had to hear about it at all.
This has to stop, and it stops when we start going the full Ralph Nader on the internet industry and demanding quality and safety in the software and hardware that we use and buy. History tells us repeatedly that we get better products when we demand them. Regulation and market effects both follow public opinion.
So go on a genitalia picture strike with me, but don’t just do that. Start asking why computers, phones, and the internet suck so much, and what the companies who have the duty to protect your data are doing about it. Accountability needs to rest with those who make computers and the internet, and a bit with those who use it, but stamping our collective feet and saying bad people shouldn’t be bad won’t stop our junk from getting everywhere, not just archived in Utah.
There will always be hackers and NSAs, even if we get rid of a few script kiddies and one or two slipped-over-into-insanity spy agencies. We need to ask our geeks and their employers to be better, just as we need to ask our governments to be better, and both need to face overthrow if they won’t listen. For internet security, this means we need a consumer revolt. Average non-paranoid users need to get mad about bugs, and sign petitions about having their computers updated and their data encrypted. People need to stop seeing data leaks and fraud and technology failures in general as some kind of inevitable part of living in a heartless universe. You’re not losing money and data because people are bad sometimes, you’re losing them because the people you trust are being total assholes.
Bugs and hacks aren’t inevitable, they’re people playing fast and lose with the stuff of your life because you let them. Users, consumers, netizens — however you want to say it — need to get mad as hell. Tell everyone from Apple to Google to Microsoft, the browser makers and the cloud services, and especially the advertising companies stealing your online-life and selling it to corporations that you’re mad as hell, and no one is getting anymore dick pics until the internet gets fixed. Until you do, your dick pics won’t just be collected by the NSA, they’ll be collected, traded, sold, and laughed at by any number of other governments, corporations, hackers, organized criminals, and exes.
All the pictures, except for the naked celebrity on top, were acquired in about 20 minutes of searching the exposed bits of hacking forums while making myself a cup of tea. Identities and naughty bits covered with images from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s all that easy, and I left out the lewd ones.