Sunday, April 09, 2017

Paying for Privacy

So, my email inbox has been filling up over the last couple of weeks with (apparently unsuccessful) advocacy with respect to a vote recently taken by Congress repealing some incipient regulations on how ISPs treat their customers' web browsing data. I'm only a concerned citizen in these matters, not an expert, but as I understand it, Congress has removed ISP regulatory authority from the FCC and returned it to the FTC, the upshot of which is that Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and (I assume, although their name never comes up) Time Warner / Spectrum are now free to collect the same customer data that Google and Facebook collect. You can read about this issue here and here.

Now, Google (for instance) offers its users extensive privacy "opt-out" settings. Time Warner, in contrast, offers no such settings that I can find. It does provide an opt-out webform request, and that only applies to its phone service, assuming that I'm reading it correctly. Otherwise, its customers have only their word that they will not disclose any of our "personally identifiable information". I'm hoping this means that Time Warner isn't letting the Dole company in on Φ's taste in banana pr0n, but I'm not really sure.

My attitude can best be summarized in this quote:

Privacy advocates draw a distinction between websites tracking their users and broadband carriers doing so. Websites generally rely on advertising revenue to survive and their services are basically provided free or at reduced cost in exchange for visitors watching ads. The carriers, on the other hand, charge whopping sums for their service and can track everything a consumer does online whereas a website can only record actions taken on that site.

Here is an analogy: it's gratuitously insulting (as it is intended to be) that next Sunday, the Google website will carry image of Cesar Chavez instead of our risen Christ. But then, I'm not paying Google for its blog-hosting either, and if I ever become sufficiently aggravated, it would be (relatively) easy for me to use somebody else's free blog-hosting service.

Microsoft, in contrast, occupies a near de facto monopoly on operating systems, its customers pay Microsoft directly for its operating system, and the path-dependence is such that switching operating systems is almost impossible. Given all this, I believe that Microsoft has no business putting this on my sign-in screen:

Did you catch it?

Clicking on one of those little tidbits opens up a website in your default browser:

My brief exploration of the YouthSpark site shows it to be mostly harmless. I don't think the drive to Get-More-Women-in-Stem, in and of itself, is likely to be especially productive, but that's not the point. The point is, <angry caps>I DIDN'T RENT YOU PROPAGANDA SPACE ON MY COMPUTER!</angry caps>. And I shouldn't have to go digging through my OS settings for the one that says, spare me your treacly bits of cause-o-the-day virtue signalling.

And so, Microsoft, if you're listening, know this: I'm done. I took these screen shots while doing the books on the Windows 10 computer at church this morning. The day you stop supporting the Windows 7 I use at home is the day I switch to Linux. I'm not paying you to hijack my screen saver for your own purposes, no matter what they are.

1 comment:

LDiracDelta said...

Ubuntu is great. Not at all like the Linux desktop experience from 2005 [he said from Windows cause he's still a sad gamer..] I love doing s/w dev in it at work.