Questionable business models affect the perception of the new Facebook/Whatsapp Privacy Policy

Facebook changed its data management strategies and decided to use data generated by WhatsApp. The “people of the network” are up in arms. Many threaten to switch to Telegram or Signal. Some do so. Then everything goes back to the way it was. Originally published in Italian by Infosec.News

It is not the first time that ‘alarms’ about this or that fundamental right have provoked gut reactions that, in practice, translate into little. Once again, as shown by the many data theft cases by this or that multinational company, no one is shocked.

That is how it is, everyone thinks. However, does it have to be that way?

Many people do not need to ‘keep their data in the cloud’. All they need is a good NAS and, in the case of professionals and companies, little more. Does it make sense to entrust one’s life to a social network in order to have (not even) the ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ marked by a few likes, perhaps ‘back’, having, in turn, left a mark on a stranger’s profile?

Do businesses need to allow a single company to manage their computers, or ‘endpoints’, from the outside? Do we all have to ‘subscribe’ and ‘create an account’ to use a software or a service, a smartphone or a computer?

The common factor in all these events is the commercial choice of the IT multinationals and – as a cascade, of the related industries – to impose a business model based on users’ centralised control.

The software multinationals started a few decades ago, imposing the remote activation of operating systems and applications, with the excuse of ‘fighting piracy’. Then came the hardware manufacturers, imposing ‘registration’ to have access to warranties and firmware updates. Then came the world of entertainment and video games. Then, again, manufacturers of smartphones and various hardware which, this time, use the ‘account’ as a condition even for using the product.

A similar fate for home and car is just around the corner.

I do not know if the boiled frog’s metaphor is factually correct, but the concept certainly is. Over the years we have been progressively accustomed (with the stick rather than the carrot) to accept that the use of information technologies should require a business model that deprives us of control and the right to use these tools independently in the name of the ‘total connection’ of machines and people. As Corrado Guzzanti used to say about the possibility of talking from Rome to an Aborigine via the Internet: Aborigine, what the fuck do you and I have to say?

In other words, if we returned to a less globalised dimension of life and work, we would realise that much of what passes as “evolution” is, in reality, just a commercial strategy—a way of selling us products and working models that we do not need.

So, rather than on Facebook, we would interact via e-mail only with those who are interested in the things we are interested in, we would entrust our ideas to our website and, if we wanted to talk to someone, we could use one of the many videoconferencing systems that do not require an ‘account’.

Easier said than done for many, but not for everyone because setting up these systems is still not very simple. “New technologies” should be called so not because they are futuristic. They are still at such a crude stage of evolution that they regularly require a technician’s intervention to work. It gratifies the egos of many geeks but is detrimental to the rest of the world, which is still forced to use instruments similar to the steam power but presented as cold fusion engines.

Let us not be surprised, then, if, as Alan Cooper wrote, The Inmates Are Running The Asylum.

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