The facebook fiasco

Few months ago I wrote a similar post on this: Truth according to the internet, a real-life horror story. Why didn’t anyone put proper research before questioning Mark? He got away so easy. He lied about things like facebook doesn’t have a monopoly, given that it owns instagram and whatsapp. And there is most certainly not an easy way to delete your facebook. One has to go through the timeline and delete each post/comment individually. And some activity cannot be deleted, but only “hidden from timeline” or made private. The data you shared during signup to other apps using facebook cannot be deleted. Also there is only a “deactivate account” option and when you login again, it is back. There is no “delete account” option that deletes instantaneously (takes upto 90 days) or deletes all of the content like sent messages in other people’s phones/accounts.

The real questions are:

  1. There was a feature recently disabled after this fiasco, which lets anyone look up someone using their phone number or email. The estimate is that all people using facebook have had their profiles scraped. Is there a way to find out who owns such data and also make them delete it?
  2. How much access do the developers at facebook have on the private data. What are the security/privacy practices followed at facebook? Mark dodged this. But the standard development practice is to have developers work on copies of the data during development, which are usually scrambled to remove private data like phone numbers and email addresses.

The truth is, so many of the best minds in the world are recruited by the top dogs at silicon valley and put to work to solve one problem. How to make the most money out of users’ private data by selling ads. Sure, they are building products, making lives easier for millions of people. But the end goal remains the same. To sell ads.

The best example is google which made 84%+ of their revenue from ads and is now worth $700 billion. Google tracks every google search you made, every page visited in Chrome, every place you searched on maps, youtube history and even the apps you opened in android. Just visit https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity to see your search history from 2014.

And don’t get me started on the apps that silently track you and don’t provide a page like this to let you view what they know about you.

2018

This is it folks! This is MY year, right here.

Not even kidding, I GOT THIS.

Have you ever woken up one day feeling that everything is possible again?

That you can clench your fists tightly again and feel a rush of strength in your body?

I have always thought that a better version of oneself silently exists within, constantly guiding and teaching right from wrong. I feel that I have to become that person now. Is this part of growing up? Am I just another snowflake spewing his own bullshit views over the internet. I don’t give a shit!

I must be growing up.

Truth according to the internet, a real-life horror story.

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” ~Abraham Lincoln, 1927

So, imagine for a moment that you are in a quiz show. There is a buzzer in front of you and you are competing with one other person who is standing in the dark. The anchor points right at you and says, “Question 1, What’s his favorite food?”. Before you even begin to think, the other person hits the buzzer and says “It’s spaghetti, he had it eight days back while binge watching Game of thrones. But his selection of porn later that night… now that’s what I would call Stranger things!”. The crowd laughs. The following questions continue to be all about you – what’s in your bank account, your favorite band when you were nineteen… And you always lose and the other person always has the right answer, each time delving into more embarrassing, excruciating personal details.

I was lying. There is no such person in existence, not yet… But there are entities that know more about you than you do – entities that live inside hundreds of thousands of computers owned by different corporations, on large datacenters spread across several continents and some even under water.

There is a data model of you that can accurately define not only your daily life, but also your mind – your passions, religious, political and ideological beliefs.

So, man created Artificial Intelligence (AI) in his own image. And it passes judgement on others, just like people – you and me, who judge others’ lives based on their Instagram or Facebook. But the difference is that the AI has no envy, fear of missing out (FOMO) or subsequent depression.

An AI out there can determine that you suck at grammar, based on your Facebook comments. Another AI out there can predict you that you will gain seven pounds of fat in the next three months and may have a heart attack in the next fifteen years, based on the history of foods that you ordered. There can be an AI out there that can confirm that you cheated on your spouse on “that date and this time”, with your ex boyfriend number three, based on your GPS and heartbeat data. An AI can tell you that someone fancies you, based on the number of seconds they paused on your Instagram photo.

The AIs that I am describing are possible. In fact, not rocket-science and easy to code, if the data is accessible. There are corporations that have this data. Make no mistake, the information collected about you right now, can be worth thousands of dollars over time and costs only a couple of dollars to store it in a hard-disk. It’s never going to be deleted and your grandchildren and their grandchildren will find the models of you on the internet, long after you are gone.

It’s frightening how much of human history is being written by machines.

Some suicide bomber killed hundreds of people in Afghanistan? Oh, it’s not on the first two pages of a Google search? There is no such guy and it didn’t happen, so let’s not talk about it, ever!

But, but, we know what is happening around us. It’s in our memory goddammit! and no AI can rewrite the history in our memory, right?

Wrong. You hate someone, say Donald Trump. You will be bombarded with articles and tweets which claim that he is evil and videos that criticize his every second of existence. The more you read them, you will be offered more of the same, effectively putting you in an echo chamber of people and their thoughts that all seem to agree with you. You subconsciously conclude that everyone in the world share the same view and the history right now matches with what is happening in your mind. Now think about the people who like Donald Trump and imagine the content that is put in front of them by the internet and the echo chambers that their minds live in.

As someone who works in the software industry, I’m sorry to tell you that this is the new normal and we cannot escape it. A part of the world economy depends on our personal data and the time that we spend inside these echo chambers. We are here to feed and be fed by the machines.

Sorry hollywood, but this is the real India. #rant

Here’s the deal… India is not a land of snake charmers. I have been living in India for the past 25 years (all my frickin’ life) and have seen exactly two snake charmers.

We are not all cab drivers or customer support or software engineers. Also, there is no language called “Indian”.

There is a growing resentment among Indians about the way India is portrayed in hollywood movies and about how the rest of the world perceives them. Continue reading “Sorry hollywood, but this is the real India. #rant”

My bread and butter is my cup of coffee

My bread and butter is my cup of coffee

Disclaimer: Dear reader, please don’t take this post literally. Trying to sip and swallow your toast can lead to choking and even death. To those who did it anyway: please don’t haunt me.

The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
– William James

Somebody told me that I am good with computers. Yeah, I was young, twelve maybe.  Continue reading “My bread and butter is my cup of coffee”