I never understood the money…

I’ve never understood the money…

The vast amounts of money that things like Google or Facebook can generate. I remember talking to another IT guy, from West Point, in the late 90’s about Yahoo and Excite – years before Google.

He saw things from a more military perspective than I, more of a global reach to these things, but neither of us could understand how giving people free e-mail and free search services could make them any money.

Fast forward twenty years and you have Google and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and a dozen others.

Vast oceans of money from “free” stuff.

Then I hear a story like Cambridge Analytica and it starts to make sense.

My daughter was getting married in 2009 we were emailing back and forth about cake bakers and photographers near her. I noticed then ads popping up in Gmail and Google for wedding related stuff, gowns, limo services, cake bakers…

At the time I was mildly amused. Possibly a bit concerned about my privacy, but not overly concerned with either wedding cakes, tuxedos or my personal information. I was, after all using a free email service. I did not expect real privacy and security.

A couple of years ago I noticed that if I’d google certain bicycle parts or Mustang car parts that similar parts would show up on Facebook ads and google ads and even emails. Maybe I was a bit more concerned.

Ok, so Google and Facebook and Twitter are mass marketing machines. I had to decide if I could accept that. I long ago realized – I don’t know who first said this – don’t put anything on the internet that you’d not want to see on the zipper in Times Square – If you want to sell me Mustang high-flow fuel pumps while I’m bitching on Facebook that doesn’t bother me that much.

But…

Being a powerful and ubiquitous advertising mechanism still didn’t add to the billions and billions and billions…

It seemed to me that advertising generated more money than the goods sold. It didn’t add up.

Guys like Zuckerberg who were multi-billionaires long before their companies ever turned a profit. Google and Yahoo and Amazon as well.

Then yesterday, I learned about Cambridge Analitica and Facebook and political campaigns and Russians and it all suddenly made sense.

They cull our personal information from us and use it to create a twisted personal reality, profiting from our fears and insecurities and feeding us lies. We act on these lies and make some incredibly bad decisions. Decisions that work to our detriment.

It’s actually creepier and more terrifying than even George Orwell warned us about.

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