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Baratunde Thurston: “How To Do a Data Detox In a Zillion Easy Steps”
Moving beyond alarmist headlines, Baratunde exposes the plain truths about the fight for data privacy
Playback is back. For our second episode, futurist, comedian, writer, and activist Baratunde Thurston joins the podcast with a word — and then some — on big data, big tech, and his own data detox. His piece “How To Do a Data Detox In a Zillion Easy Steps” appears in Trust Issues, our June digital magazine about the state of trust in 2018. In it, Baratunde takes us through his jarring encounter with the hoard of personal information collected by the 300+ apps on his phone. That’s right, 300 apps with digital records of his photos, notes, documents, contact lists, minute-to-minute location, and more, all for the benefit of big tech’s bottom line. Because “the next big things — artificial intelligence, machine learning, speech and facial recognition — will be powered by more of our data,” Baratunde explains, it is essential that each of us reckon with how and how much of that data is collected. “We’re the raw material for the next phase in computer science.”
Listen to Baratunde perform the essay (3:44), along with music and sound design, and then chat with host Manoush Zomorodi (25:10) about his deep dive into hefty terms of service documents to write the essay, the difference between companies like Alphabet and Facebook, why big tech deserves a second chance, his new tech manifesto, and how data detoxing can feel like having an argument with your significant other. (View the show credits.)
Ten Questions with Baratunde
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
At what time of day do you do your best writing?
When I’m awake
Where do you do your best thinking?
Mostly on Earth
What reality show do you think you’d make the best host of?
Survivor, President Trump Edition. It’s what we’re all living through right now.
Favorite guilty pleasure TV show?
I don’t feel guilty about watching TV. When I watch TV I am supporting the arts, creating jobs, and tending to my mental health in a world run amok. Watching television is a civic duty. You’re welcome.
What’s the most underused word in the English language?
Anfractuous. I googled it. Never heard of this word. Not sure it is a word. Or English.
What’s your favorite word in the English language?
Power. Also a great TV show.
What’s your favorite podcast?
There Goes The Neighborhood. Both seasons, NYC and LA.
Who from history would you most like to meet?
Winston Churchill. I got questions about his cruelty toward India.
Twitter account that more people should be following?
Clint Smith (@clintsmithIII) on Twitter. He’s a national treasure.