Category Archives: Privacy

Why I put up fights on privacy, junk mail, and so on

My guess: most people do not first look at any website or information request and ask themselves what data the issuers/owners are gathering, and how they will use it. I do.

Another guess: most people just toss the junk mail, probably without opening it. I do that with nearly none of it.

This makes me the oddball, a lifetime position of comfort for me. In fact, it is a position of such comfort that it comes with intellectual risk. There is always the possibility that my crowd-averse nature will go so far that it may become as mindless as a crowd. If my view is that the larger the group, the dumber its collective decisions tend to get, then a natural bias against conformity is not unreasonable provided I do not take that too far. Put another way, it’s also dumb and mindless to refuse to consider doing what everyone else does. Maybe everyone else is, in at least a few cases, doing what makes sense. The idea is to think, not to find a new way to refuse to think. If one is going to refuse to think, we already have ample incentive and opportunity there: just make the choices everyone else makes, and enjoy the warm sussuration of conformist reassurance, of crowd membership. Blind nonconformity isn’t any brighter than blind conformity.

But I can’t really win. What I do is like throwing grains of sand in front of a semi, one grain at a time. And I realize it. I do it anyway.

I block as much data hydra stuff on websites as I can. I don’t even bother reading New York Times articles; requires a login, end of consideration. I enable scripts one at a time until a given page works enough for me to do what I want to do there, or I decide I don’t want it badly enough. I go through life without running Google’s scripts or taking Google cookies. I send back piles of junk mail. Other junk mail I rip up, stuff into a business reply envelope, and mail back. Whatever’s going in the trash goes into it stripped of my identifying information, even to the extent of peeling address labels off shipping boxes, including any label that contains the tracking number. I mute the TV during commercials, or watch almost exclusively DVRed shows. I refuse to connect my TV to the Internet. I refuse to connect my game console to the Internet. I go into my Facebook ad preferences and remove any that are relevant, leaving only those that make no sense. Metaphorically speaking, I kick, scream, bite, curse, imprecate, slash, and knee the whole way as the world tries to drag me into Alwaysconnectedland and Surveillistan.

Why on earth? How is this worth my energy? Don’t I have better things to do? What good could this possibly accomplish? Did I mistake Don Quixote for a self-help book? Do I need mental help?

The answer to that last question depends on perspective. If you believe that only actions that effect external change have value, then yeah, you probably reckon I should go on medication. But you probably assume there’s anger involved, and there isn’t.

On the contrary, this is how I defeat anger. I have learned that I take more harm from meek submission against what I find offensive than I do from (mostly, nearly) ineffective resistance. In my world view, a great many things should cause tremendous outrage and resistance, and the world does not share my view. In my world view, the center of the moral continuum does not move, and the world’s moral continuum moves every day. I think the world needs memory care. Let’s say there are a hundred unjust killings per day for one year. Next year, there are five hundred. Suddenly the world will think of only a hundred as Good Old Days, and if it drops to two hundred fifty, will call that excellent. To me, the hundred unjust killings are still awful, two-fifty is two and a half times as awful, etc. Fewer is better, certainly, but my ‘normal’ did not reset with the world’s. This does not bother me. The world is wrong most of the time anyway. I lack the need for community reinforcement of my perspective, and as mentioned, tend to distrust it.

Thus, I have not adjusted my ‘normal’ to the advance of the surveillance state, to intrusive marketing, to a postal service existing in the main to deliver garbage no one wants, and so on. I don’t want to. I was once told by a famous author that I lived in my own little world (and he meant that as a compliment). He was wrong. I live in the real world with realistic expectations. I just don’t move my moral compass to agree with the rest of the world’s. If I move it, I do so without consulting majority opinion.

Thus, in my view, when confronted by a wrong thing, I have no moral obligation to “let it go” or “just say it’s okay.” That’s how the world handles most wrongs, via rationalization, and I can see why. If it didn’t, it would go around angry all the time; the level of wrong is at overload, so most people just rationalize away a given portion of the wrong. If they did not, I guess they’d feel guilty. I understand that.

Unlike them, I do something. Might be something small and unbelievably petty, but I resist. I throw my grain of sand. I have found that I take more harm from bottled anger than from practical resistance within my system of values. This is a better way to live while refusing to conform my moral compass to society’s mobile, amnesiac version. Do I think it makes me better than anyone else? I don’t think about that at all. I think the collected mass of humanity is so dumb, as my very religious father used to say, that they ain’t sure if Christ was crucified or run over by a milk truck. As individuals, that’s different, because when outside of the suffocation of groupthink, individual intellects and morals can shine. Some are better and smarter than me in some ways. Some are in every way I can assess. Some aren’t. Some are saints. Some are contemptible. I don’t think about that because they have their talents and values, and I have mine, and a diverse humanity is much to be treasured.

Plus, without a diverse humanity, where would I get a massive number of people to disagree with?

So I answer telemarketing calls in foreign languages, or pretend to be inarticulate, or pretend that a microwave is my computer.

I open junk mail that might have a business reply envelope, and stuff all the garbage in and mail it back.

I shred everything with my name or address on it. The labels I can’t peel off plastic mailers, I cut off and burn in an old coffee can.

The only discards I don’t shred the ID info from are those I stamp REFUSED–OBJECTIONABLE MAIL–RETURN TO SENDER. Why should I have to dispose of their garbage? Ah, but the PO has to dispose of unwanted junk? Great, let the PO do it, since they enable this whole situation by giving junk mailers a lower price.

A provider asks if she can share some information with the insurance company. I say “if I have a choice, then no.” When told I do not, I tell her to tell them the minimum that will make them go away.

Someone calls and begins firing questions. No. No one gets to ask any questions until I finish asking all my own questions, and if they asked even one inappropriate question, my own questions could take a very long time. I do not desire to earn this person’s approval by “being nice.” Nosey people do not deserve “nice.”

A lawn service sticks a flyer onto my house. I call the deputies to find out what it will take to get them punished for that. A sergeant advises me to put up a NO TRESPASSING sign. I do it. I resent random businesses sticking crap to my house. In the newspaper box, that’s one thing; on my house, forget it.

A marketing company sends me an unwanted survey. I owe them no truth, especially if they ask a single question I consider nosey (the one about my income is an automatic). I have some fun. I create a fake name and comically dysfunctional household and fill out the survey accordingly. I’ll get junk for years based on their sale of that data, and I’ll know where it originated. I got sample adult diapers from one outfit for years.

Like many of you, I mute commercials unless I can fast-forward them, but if I have to mute them, I look away. I presume that companies are well aware that many people mute the commercials and that visuals must carry the load. If I look down at my book, even those do not get to stamp images into my mind.

“What are the last four of your social?” In the first place, I hate that it’s so commonplace they don’t even feel they need to say ‘social security number’ in full. In the second, I resent even more that it’s become a default password, so it sets my teeth on edge. I growl: “Decline to provide. We do not use that as a password.” Try it and you will find that nearly every business that has used that as your default password will have some other way of ascertaining your identity (I have no fundamental problem with that).

In general, I ask about the motivation of anything government or corporations shove at me. I begin by assuming that the motive is control (government) or control and profit (corporations). The burden of proof otherwise is on them, and if they do not bother to meet it, I will do my level best not to cooperate in some way I can get by with. For example, I never did get an Idaho driver’s license. Why not? Because fuck you, Butch Otter; my Washington license was still valid, and I didn’t really give a shit what your state law said unless you were prepared to push the issue, and I knew you were not. Of course, I am not confessing to anything of the kind in Oregon; I still live in Oregon. All I can say is that Oregon is many times more authoritarian than either Washington or Idaho, and therefore much more satisfying when (in theory) one finds a way to (in theory) disobey one of its laws. Oregon works very, very hard to avoid loopholes. If you found one, you did well.

Why direct that at Otter? Because I have learned, and I believe, that the top person is responsible for everything. He’s the governor of Idaho (that little DWI incident a few years back is kind of overlooked; pick one of his multiple excuses), and I reserve the right to hold him accountable. Can he control everything? Of course not. Is that my problem? No. Does he care about my problems? Ha! Am I obligated to care about his, in that case? If you’ve read this far, what do you suppose my answer is? So if I had a problem with Idaho’s state government, I had one with Butch. I reserve the right to lay it at his feet, and to curse him over it.

I do these things not because I harbor delusions that I will change the system–though if everyone did them, it certainly would. I’m not doing this as my contribution to humanity, though I sometimes let myself think that in weak moments. I’m doing it because I take more emotional and psychological harm from mindless compliance than I do from wasted time.

That simple.

Deceiving Facebook advertising

Ever since the Ad Preferences thing became general knowledge, Facebook users have known a good way to feel creeped out. Yeah, we knew they would do this, and we can’t stop them.

However, I have figured out a way to ruin it, at least a little.

First off: why do that? “What part of ‘free service’ do you not understand? If you impair their ability to make money, you will no longer have a free service! You use this voluntarily! No one forces you!” Answer: because we aren’t getting paid enough. We, the users, are the product. Our compensation is not tied to the revenue we generate for a publicly traded company. Our views are the deliverable. If Facebook were to pay us, that would be one thing, but it never will. Because it never will, it’s moral to mess up their income stream.

How would one do that? At first, I though that deleting all the ad preference indicators would make sense. I then learned an odd thing: if you delete them all, they are soon repopulated with many more even if your FB usage is way down. I’ve been very busy the past couple of weeks and have spent far less time on the site. I checked last night and my “Ad Preferences” were as big a stew as I had previously accumulated (before the first Big Deletion) in years. If you delete them all, it seems, they are repopulated. Quickly. Like an ant colony.

All right. If you insist on keeping a dossier on me, I will ruin it. I will turn it into the hottest garbage I can.

Next time, don’t just delete all your ad preferences. Next time, go through them all and delete all those relevant to you: your leisure, your work, your beliefs, your hobbies, your passions. Leave only those that are complete whiffs. You like quilting? Delete any having to do with fabric. Oregon Ducks fan? There’s help for that condition, but in the meantime, keep any displayed ad preference that indicates you might like the Beavs or the Huskies. You voted for Jill Stein? Leave Mitt Romney on there and remove Jill. Make sure that all the remaining preferences represent lies.

There is nothing Facebook can do about this. It amounts to urinating in the data pool. It also takes less time than deleting them all, and is much more amusing. You’re a millennial? AARP is on there? That one gets to stay! You’re a stay-at-home mom? Facebook thinks you like diaper pails? Hell, no, you do not!

Have fun. We may not win the privacy war, but some of us will fight it just for enjoyment and pride.

 

Blowing off Steam

For those who don’t know much about PC gaming, Steam is an online service that provides copy protection, game e-tailing, and probably does other stuff as well.

I wouldn’t know for sure. Way back when Valve was announcing a game called Half-Life 2, there came an announcement that one would also have to use a service called “Steam.” One would have to permit one’s computer to phone Steam to validate one’s non-piracy right to play the game; not just upon install, but all the time. I had loved the first Half-Life to the level of remembering specific moments in the story and how I’d handled them. I also am not prone to automatic acceptance of pretty much anything. Me being me, I took at look at that and said: “nah, ain’t doing that, don’t need a game that badly.”

Most people did not take this stance. Most people just accepted the concept, just as most people accepted debit cards and juice bag drinks. I did not just accept it. And over time, I have come to understand that it means the end of my buying new PC games. When my old ones will no longer work under new systems, I just won’t be a gamer any more.

It wasn’t about unwillingness to buy. I don’t mind paying for software. I do mind the idea of having to keep spyware running just to play a game. For my OS and applications, it’s one thing; I hate it (oh, trust me, how deeply I hate it), but the price there would be my livelihood (and yes, I realize they know that and that’s why M$ does it, and yes, be assure that I take time to take that as personally as possible). I can be forced into it for a word processor, though I’ll remember that they did that. I can’t be forced into it for a game.

Thus, no Steam for me.

It ripples outward. I kept taking PC Gamer for quite some time, and would have continued, but now they no longer list in reviews whether a game uses Steam copy protection. When last they did, most games seemed to use Steam, so I infer that Steam is now assumed and thus needless to state, like “requires monitor.” With that, PCG lost its relevance to my world, and it’ll join about ten other print mag subscriptions in the recycle bin.

It’s not the only area in which I’ve done such a thing. There is increasing social pressure to own a “smart” phone, a device I consider mostly loathsome and unusable, not even very good for the basic purpose of speaking to others. For example, if someone under 40 organizes a meeting nowadays and creates an event on Facebook, and at the appointed time the venue turns out to be closed, the organizer will not post a sign on the closed door. The organizer will update the Facebook event, taking on faith that everyone checks Facebook from his or her phone. If you don’t, you’re left out. I realize that this will see me left out of a certain number of social events.

Once, I might have minded. Now I simply ask myself what I am really missing. That’s not sour grapes, but experience. An event with a bunch of people with smartphones will probably lead to the barbarism of a bunch of people staring down at their groins, madly “checking in” and posting Instagraphs (whatever they are), and making sure the whole world knows their status. I wouldn’t be a good fit anyway. At a group gathering, if I don’t mute my cell phone, you know that either something very important is going on, or I forgot, or I have so little regard for the value of the gathering that it’s valid to ask why I’m even there.

At some point during such obstinacies, the original issue becomes less important than the obstinacies themselves. No, I won’t take a debit card, even if I could see rare applications for it. Why? Because by now, debit cards can go to hell for their own sakes; I’ve enjoyed boycotting them for at least twenty years, and I see no reason to abandon the fun.

I don’t have phone conversations with disembodied voices, either. I will press numbers, but I will not speak understandably. Companies and government need to continue to hire human beings to do business with other human beings, and I’m not going to make it easier for them to get rid of more human beings. Making it harder for me? Okay, we can play that game. I view human interaction as important, and worth some invested time in order to foster.

It might seem like I have a fundamental aversion to new ideas. I don’t. I just have a fundamental aversion to new ideas that are pressed or forced upon me, especially when it’s one that is mainly for the forcer or presser’s benefit. Please consider that clause carefully. That’s my complaint about Steam: it’s there so that it can send information from my machine. That does not benefit me. That benefits game companies, maybe, but I’m not here to benefit them; therefore I’m fine if they go to hell. Same with smartphones. To me they look like a tiny chiclet keyboard and unusable screen at data rates that bloat up faster than a dead steer in August. Seems like $500 to begin the suffering, then $100+ per month of ongoing suffering. Go to hell, not doing it. Automatic bill pay? Seriously? Let me get this straight. I’m to let them take money out of my account without even reviewing the validity of their charges? What if they make a major mistake? You’re saying I should trust the company to do the right thing and be honest? Yeah. I’ll get right on that. I think I’ll be the one making decisions about who gets paid with my money, thanks.

I don’t look down on anyone who chooses to accept situations that I have rejected. I do think more highly of anyone who stopped and thought before making that acceptance. Can’t live without gaming, and decided to kneel and accept Steam? At least you thought. At least you did not just kneel by reflex. That’s really all I advocate: accept it for a considered reason, not just because a corporation ordered you to do so.

In the end, there may be more isolating choices, and I’ll have to decide what’s worth it to me.

I know one that is not, and it is Steam.

By viewing our site, you agree to reams of crap

We see it all the time, do we not? “Use of our site constitutes agreement to [a massive Terms of Service that has probably been read once in history, by the paralegal who mashed it up for the lawyer’s signoff, and contains gods only know what].”

I am making the case for paying such TOS little to no heed.

Here’s my approach: I don’t recognize them. Yes, they probably in theory have the law on their side; no, I don’t care. I will not comply, and they can go to hell for trying to give me orders. Here is my reasoning:

  • No one put a weapon to the organization’s head and caused it to publish a website viewable by the random general public. The information now has the moral privacy rights of a billboard, or the side of a city bus, or the painted front window of a business.
  • I am not planning on misappropriating their information, nor plagiarizing it. If the site has downloadable content, it looks to me like a pile of flyers with a sign that says “take one.” Any information whose distribution they wish to restrict, they will put behind closed doors (requiring login and password, perhaps more). The New York Times does just that. In turn, I decided not to keep visiting the Grey Lady in her assisted e-living home.
  • If the site doesn’t like people using itself unless one allows all the data mining and other widgets to work, fine; have the designers break it for anyone who will not. Oh my heck, they say, but that results in a lot of complaints? Too damn bad, not my problem. If the company does not care about my problems, as evidenced by a bulky TOS, it gives me no moral reason to care about its problems. I have the loophole here and I see zero reason not to use it.
  • Absent some moral reason, only enforceable laws and claims matter. One can claim that someone ‘signed’ an agreement all one wants, but unless one is willing to sue to enforce it, and would win, it means nothing. If the law or claim cannot or will not be enforced, the question then becomes whether it has moral force. For example, taking too many napkins at the burger joint: how many is too many? Legally, it’s probably as many as you can pull out before being noticed and kicked out. Morally, it’s as many as necessary to maintain some semblance of civilized dining. Morally, the business has trusted you without putting up an admonishing sign, or putting the napkins behind the service counter, or trying to tell you that your eating here constitutes acceptance of these terms. Trust deserves validation.
  • The best case for a moral reason comes from sites which ask politely, but do not penalize anyone for declining. Fark.com is one. DuckDuckGo is another. In those cases, with no compulsion, the site’s offer has moral validity and deserves reasonable consideration (and will get same from me).

The same is true for license agreements. The law has let the software industry construct a bizarre situation which now allows, for example, a car company to install software in your vehicle and thus claim that you haven’t really purchased all of your vehicle, that you don’t really own it. In service of the legitimate cause of fighting piracy, the law has let them construe it that you don’t ever actually own anything tangible, just a license.

That’s crap. To me, morally, a piece of software looks more like a book (or a coffee maker, etc.) than like a legal right to do a thing. I believe that if I bought a copy, I own that copy. The law says otherwise, and I do not care. If I duplicate the book and sell copies, that’s morally wrong. If I copy part or all of the book and claim it myself, that’s morally wrong. But if I tear a page out of the book because for some reason I don’t like it, I see nothing morally wrong with that. And if I want to hack the software for my own use and purposes, I see no moral problem with that either. It’s when I rob the producer of sales, or misrepresent the producer’s work as my own, that I step over the moral line. If it’s shareware, though, I should (and often do) pay if I plan to use it.

It is an example of how corporations and government frame a situation the way they prefer, and we allow them to get by with it by speaking in their terms, acknowledging the moral legitimacy of their framing. We could cease to do that.

  • “The TOS says you agree to take cookies and not to block our ads.”
  • “That conflicts with my own TOS, which say screw you, since there’s nothing you can do about it.”
  • “But you made a legal agreement!”
  • “Great. Sue to enforce it, and see how well that works. I don’t recognize agreements done in slimy ways, like four pages of fine print written in legalese full of hidden gotchas. If you want us to make an agreement, make it up front, sensible, and readable. If it’s not stupid, maybe I’ll agree to it. If it’s stupid, I’ll just say screw you.”
  • “You can’t do that!”
  • “Then stop me. There are a lot of things I would stop you from doing as well, perhaps, but I can’t. Better hope I never can. In the meantime, tough; screw you.”
  • “But the ads are part of our revenue stream!”
  • “The implication is that I care about your future. I don’t; we all have our problems. If you feel that way, then break your site for anyone who blocks them.”
  • “That’s not feasible!”
  • “I’m still waiting to hear how your problem is my problem. Some of your scripts, cookies, and such serve useful purposes for site operation; some are just data mining and shoving stuff in my face. My own TOS, which are not written down but which I consider binding, say that I should avoid all data mining that I can, and that once your site attempts it, you forfeit all moral anything and I can use your site however I want provided I don’t damage it.”
  • “If everyone looked at this your way, we’d have to become a pay site.”
  • “No one held a knife to your neck and required you to publish a website. You think it looks like your office filing cabinet. I think it looks like a billboard. I can look at the billboard all I want, and I don’t owe the billboard any data about myself. And if the billboard demands data, I get to flip off the billboard. Do what you have to do, but I’m not letting you frame this from a standpoint of legal or moral superiority. Legally, there’s nothing practical you can do. Morally, you have done the opposite of establishing moral high ground, turning the gesture of flipping you off into a pleasing act of rebellion. Party on.”

The philosophy in play here is simple: we are not morally obligated to comply with a situation/agreement/TOS just because it has some tortuous legal basis. Law is not morality and shouldn’t ever be mistaken for it. And when we forget that, we are letting government and corporations define all the terms, set all the parameters, dictate right and wrong.

They’d like that, wouldn’t they? They do like that. They hope you will troop along in submission.

And what of my own website, this one? Well, I’m the maintainer, not the user. I can’t do anything about whatever rules WordPress imposes; it imposes some on me, and I have to abide by them or they’ll kick me off. I have no difficulty with that in an ongoing relationship as a trade for a permanent hosting platform, since I get something of value.

But perhaps some users don’t like something about whatever TOS WordPress may have. If so, someone will probably circumvent them, with a minor impact on me–one is user data. But how, then, do I feel about the missing visitor data? I feel great about it. My right to compile visitor data doesn’t reach the moral level of my readers’ right to privacy, and if I ever try to say that it does, someone needs to put me out to pasture. Therefore, if you are reading this yet blocking a bunch of cookies or scripts or what have you, okay. I have no opinion on it. If I were the type to set up hoops for you to jump through, I’d be doing that. I am not, and it’s not feasible, and you could just ignore them, so it’s a stupid discussion that we need never have. I am just glad you are a reader, and that you visited today, and I hope you come back again regularly. Thank you for not plagiarizing or misappropriating; those are all I do ask, and I appreciate that you do not do them.

I hope more of us, in more situations, will require a better reason for obedience than “because a corporation tells us so.”

Let’s wait until drones are completely out of control, and it’s too late to do anything

Why not? We did it with jetskis, cell phones, cell phone cameras, and quite a few other technological advancements.

Suppose a game-changing technology comes along. There are a couple of approaches we could take:

  1. Stop and consider the implications, and restrict at least the worst potential abuses. We’ll probably miss a few, but at least we won’t let people get comfortably entrenched in some of the bad behaviors. When the other bad behaviors become issues, we’ll restrict those. Orderly adjustment.
  2. Do absolutely nothing until they are ubiquitous and people are used to misusing them. Then, and only then, come in with draconian rules that are poorly thought out, unenforceable, and cause far more annoyance than if reasonable basic rules had been enacted at the start.

Guess which way we roll as a society?

This is foolishness. It is not an infringement of freedom to say “You cannot drive while using that device.” It is not an infringement of freedom to say “We are going to restrict some areas so you can’t ruin it for everyone with that goddamn noise.” It is not an infringement of freedom to say “You can’t use that to invade people’s privacy.” Unless, of course, your definition of ‘freedom’ includes freedom to put other lives at risk, screw up every decent lake for everyone else, and so on.

Drones are the Next Big Bungle.

We’ll find out when they start to endanger air traffic near airports.

We already found out how easily they can wind up in supposedly secure locations (White House lawn, for example).

We’ll find out as they become the police snooping tools of choice.

We’ll find out as they become neighbors’ snooping tools of choice.

We’ll find out as people start to take out .22s and shoot them down.

We’ll find out as citizens hover them over protests to capture police responses on film.

We’ll find out when some poor helicopter pilot, who was following things called rules, collides with one.

We’ll find out when a few other things happen, thanks to drones, that are sufficiently undesirable I’m not willing to mention them lest I give bad people ideas.

And by the time we step in to lock yet another barn door after another horse has already escaped over the hills, the impact will already be made.

What we don’t do about phone scammers

Are you a bit amazed that we still deal with phone harassment roughly the same as we did at the advent of caller ID, with no advancements? (We got caller ID in the 1990s, around the time cell phones were still big enough to use as bludgeons.)

If you think about it, our telephone providers in all forms could easily enable us to block calls from any number we wished. Yet they do not; it is treated as almost a constitutional right for any jackass, scammer, charity or freak to bother us at any hour, unless it rises above the considerable threshold for the law to pretend to care. And the only solution our precious government could devise was a new government program called the ‘do not call’ list, which doesn’t work well even on domestic harassers, and has zero impact on foreign harassers. Easiest thing in the world: a law requiring telephone providers to permit a phone number’s owner to block calls from chosen numbers. Wasn’t even up for consideration.

This is a good example of why whether something is legal or illegal is never a factor in my judgment of its morality. It always amazes me when someone confuses the two, as if law were moral. Morality is about behavior; the options we select. Law is about control, and nothing else. Conflate the two, and you let a bunch of people so stupid and/or evil they will not give you a way to block a phone number dictate right and wrong to you.

The Great Facebook Garbage Patch

You might be aware that the Pacific Ocean contains a Sea of Garbage. No exaggeration (and it’s not the only one of its kind). While it’s nature is popularly misunderstood, the reality is disgusting enough: enough discarded plastic is floating in the North Pacific Gyre for the deteriorated particles to be an environmental problem at best, a disaster at worst. It doesn’t quite resemble the ‘many miles of floating used diapers’ vision many people have, but that actually might be less of a problem. One might gather up and dispose of used diapers, for example. Not so simple with deteriorated plastic particles.

I apply a related philosophy to my Facebook page ‘Likes.’

Why? Because one’s Likes feed the data hydra, which enables the following:

  • Serving suitable ads. I don’t like ads, and even though I block Facebook’s, that doesn’t mean I want to help them create a clear picture of my true preferences. And since we are the product, and we are not compensated nor cut into the profits, I see no reason to cooperate.
  • The collation of a dossier on me, which I expect either will be or is being sold to other people. There’s probably a clause deep in some TOS that says that I authorize that, but here’s a novel concept: I do not recognize those. I don’t care whether the law does or not. To me, anything buried in impossibly legalistic fine print designed to discourage me from reading it simply isn’t morally binding, just as I do not recognize as morally binding any form of coerced oath.

If I cannot prevent the dossier from compilation, I can ruin it by drowning it in trash. Thus, the Great Facebook Garbage Patch, containing at least a hundred spurious Likes for every valid Like. I Like flower shops in Indonesia, restaurants in Warsaw, bands in Chile. I Like a bizarre variety of movies. I Like numerous celebrities I’ve never heard of. I did this by feeding a random word to the search function, then Liking the first couple dozen pages that turned up. Over and over, once a week or so.

Does it bother me what people might think, surfing through my Likes and wondering what a strange creature I must be? No. I wouldn’t be sure what to make of anyone who based a judgment on that, if I was the type to care much about public opinion to begin with. Would it be great if they could be authentic, leading me to points of actual common interest? Sure, but it’s not worth knowing that I’m fleshing out the dossier in accurate manner.

What to mass Like today? Well, the Seagulls play the Broncos in a couple of hours. I think it’s time to bulk Like ‘seagull.’