3 min read

Mind Your Data Exhaust

Did we really sell ourselves out for the sheer convenience of having the world in our pockets? Did we really allow corporations into our intimate space in order to get next day free shipping on our toothpaste and almond butter?
Mind Your Data Exhaust
Image created by cstreet while producing a documentary project on the Tibetan Exile community in India in 2006. Image is available for collection on Foundation.

Originally written and self-published in 2019

Our data exhaust is everywhere. Everywhere we walk, (almost) everything we do in the modern world produces a tsunami of data and corporations are making millions from our resistance to protect ourselves.

How did we get here? How did we, as a society, get to the point where we simply do not care that our data is being sold and weaponized against us?

Did we really sell ourselves out for the sheer convenience of having the world in our pockets? To be able to open an app, have a car arrive at our door and take us wherever we want. Did we really allow corporations into our intimate space in order to get next day free shipping on our toothpaste and almond butter?

Did we really give away our most intimate and private access to faceless sociopathic billionaires so we could “Friend” our 10th grade biology lab partner 20 years later and throw digital farm animals at them? All the while that sociopath who owns the platform is selling us to the highest bidder to pin us against that 20 year old dormant friend because they like racist political memes created by soulless data agencies using military grade psychological warfare against us to create those racist memes that a bot farm in Macedonia is inserting into our timelines through the people we didn’t need to reconnect with 20 years after we shared a textbook in a class we slept through?

That little mental gymnastics exercise just wrecked my mind. But that’s exactly what we’ve done. Because the majority of people do not give a shit about how their data is used and they barely play a role in protecting that data. Most people just shrug it off as a consequence of living in the modern world.

Some of us delete our accounts. We lock down our devices. We are mindful of what, who and why we share on digital platforms. Yet still, we have to suffer the consequences of those who are careless, reckless and mindless with their data exhaust.

To those of us who pay attention to data rights and privacy issues, this is probably the most frustrating part— or at least it is for me. The fact that people just say fuck it and let corporations and governments invade their lives and weaponize their data against them boggles my mind. And it impacts my life too.

And here’s the cold hard truth. Your privacy matters. Whether you want to admit this or not, the collective’s refusal to protect their personal data is what brought us to the precipice of destruction at the hands of foreign adversaries hijacking elections and installing puppet leaders with delusions of dictatorship.

The Great Hack lays out the playbook in great detail But this isn’t new information and it blows my mind that people have no idea what’s happening in the world around them. How do we all simply travel clueless through the world with no engagement with any of this information.

I’m not an infosec professional. I’m not a hacker. I’m not a privacy professional. I’m none of those things. And yet, over the past decade, I’ve managed to stay engaged enough with the world around me to educate myself on these topics. I studied propaganda and information warfare by reading books. I watched what happened to our governments and our electorate by following lots of news outlets and journalists covering these issues— without spin or false messaging. I joined a local hacker space and learned how the seedy underbelly of the dark web and nefarious actors use cyber weapons to prey on us all. I traveled to hacker cons and absorbed all of this information— on my own. Because it fucking matters.

I did these things because I wanted to know what was happening to my country and my society. I’m not special. I’m simply an engaged citizen who thinks that understanding the world, information, technology and data are important to protecting myself and our country.

I don’t understand why more people don’t spend the time to learn these things. Are we that distracted and that overwhelmed with survival that we can’t take even a little bit of time, watch a few documentaries, read a book or two and take the basic precautions to protect ourselves and our communities?

Is that really too much to ask? It’s 2019, obviously technology isn’t going anywhere and our relationship to big data and tech will drive our evolution as humans and as a collective.

That's my little rant. Thanks for listening...carry on.