You Get What You Asked For

March 05, 2012

People don't care, they want solutions.

An SUV is a solution to a problem, imaginary or not. You don't care about the energy wasted to produce and run it and the harm it does to the environment.

iCloud is a solution to your synchronization problems among multiple devices. You don't care that Apple from now own can access and analyze all Your data.

Windows 8 Metro is a solution to Your digital lifestyle integration. You don't care that Microsoft will track all your interactions and contacts.

Facebook is a solution to spam friends and to keep up with them. You don't care that Facebook uses Your data to create a detailed personal profile and targets You with advertisements.

Most Email is sent unencrypted. You don't care if your Internet Provider and all routers that are in between can spy on Your Emails and Attachments.

GMail is a solution to free Email. You don't care if Google checks for trends, analyses your Email conversations and effectively may spy on everything that runs over their mail servers.

Dropbox is a solution to file sharing. You don't care that they store all data unencrypted on their cloud to save space. No, You even think that deduplication is a nice feature!

I am not accusing any of the companies above anymore. They just do their best to survive their competition.

Initially, a startup provides a service or a product. But to stay competitive, it needs to transform into a data-collecting and data-selling company. Effectively, they need to convert to a data recycling company. Your data is transformed into something they can sell.

And why you are happy to use their products? Because You want them for as cheap as possible.

For every problem above there is an alternative solution that protects your privacy. It offers You the service you naively asked for, often without a direct dependency to a company and without the consequences that happen when your data is accidentally released to the public.

Often hackers built these tools and services, not companies. These solutions are not as convenient and cheap as you might wish for, but they protect your privacy and your digital lifestyle.

Right now these solution are existing and are legal, you just have to look for them.

But You don't worry as long your data won't be used against you.

But are You sure that your data is not used against You at this very moment? Aren't You fearing right now that the government or some hacker may access all Your files stored in some cloud? Are You trusting high-profile competitive companies which are classified as psychopaths more then You trust your friends?

If you think I am wrong and paranoid, consider that Your Convenience may work the other way around, too.

Right now it gets convenient for governments to access Your data. Instead of directly spying on You, they just scan for your various Email, Social Networking and Cloud accounts and force the involved companies to release your data.

Once the government starts protecting itself and is enforcing law more and more by getting easy access to your data, it won't give up this feature.

And there we go, a self-fulfilling prophecy. You being convenient may –  in the end –  lead to laws that won't allow you to store and transmit encrypted data. The devices you can buy in the future may even disallow you to store data locally only. Automatic synchronization and cloud backups, which initially were a feature, may soon become mandatory.

Unintended consequences caused by convenience. By a careless majority. By users. By You.