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“The Creepy Line” And Tech Companies’ Breach Of Privacy

Silicon Valley is making headlines . . . again. Twitter removed more than 70,000 users from its platform (including the President of the United States), and Apple, Amazon and Google deplatformed a “free speech” app called Parler. But the Big Tech conversation isn’t new. Two years ago, Bold TV and GenBiz hosts David Grasso and Lyndsay Christian talked to M.A. Taylor about his documentary “The Creepy Line,” which covers tech giants like Facebook and Google crossing what he calls “the creepy line.” This conversation is still relevant after all this time. Can Big Tech ever be redeemed?

How much privacy do we have?

“We have no privacy. Google and Facebook surveil us. They collect data. So, zero.”

What do they do with that data?

“That’s the question. In most instances, they sell the data to advertisers so they can sell products back to us. That can be debatable whether that is good or bad. But advertising is advertising. But where it becomes more concerning is when they sell it to governments or law enforcement. They can use that data to undermine democracy. The question is ‘what is the creepy line?’ What a weird word to use – creepy. Creepy is inherently bad. We think there are definitely bad behaviors that these companies are involved in. They are crossing the creepy line and they are moving the creepy line constantly.”

How can people balance convenience with privacy?

“This is one of the big issues. How do you? There aren’t other search engines to use, for instance. The reason it works so well is because they collected our data. We have to rethink how to create a service that searches the internet without collecting your data. They are in government, communications, education, your car. Your GPS might be run by Android. We opted into this agreement, let’s be honest, we took the free stuff. There is a lot of stuff to love about Google, but now they have made some maneuvers that are completely disturbing for democracy and free speech. They have crossed the creepy line.”

Where is the balance then?

“The first thing is that we are the gasoline for their engine. It is our data. So some services we shouldn’t use. We shouldn’t use Gmail, which I know breaks everybody’s hearts. The other thing is scepticism. Nothing is really free. Free is not free. The film does not really give no solutions, because we haven’t started the conversation yet. There needs to be more transparency. We need to know what these companies are up to.”

Going forward, what is the next chapter in this fight?

“The government was designed to be inefficient. These companies are entirely efficient. So regulation has to start with transparency. We need to know if they are making decisions that are, for example, shifting votes for candidates. That would be deeply concerning.”

Takeaway

Like reading diary entries from your middle school years, it’s interesting to hear Big Tech conversations from 2018. Taylor was talking about regulation and transparency, and Congress recently decided not to get rid of Section 230, which gives more protection to these companies. The internet and social media are woven into the fabric of our lives, but is there a way to keep free speech and protect all users?

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