Today, everyone is on the list, no matter how innocent. Systems of mass surveillance strive to record all people, in all places, at all times. The question is no longer “Am I on the list?,” it is “What’s my rank on the list?”
– Edward Snowden
It is not the message you send, but to whom you send it, from where and with whom you are at that moment. Your phone knows where you are at all times knows you better than yourself. It who knows where you’ve been for the past three months and can predict where you will be from now on with an accuracy of 93%.
Your mobile has a camera in front, another in the back, a microphone, an average of 14 sensors and at least 3 independent systems of geo-positioning, which work at all times even if the phone is turned off.
Your SIM card sends signals to the nearest antennas to receive coverage. Your GPS receiver communicates with satellites to calculate its own position.
Your Wi-Fi device constantly searches for networks to connect to, shouting the name of everyone you have connected to before.
Your Bluetooth searches for objects to make a network with. And your applications record each of your movements, even when you have turned off that function.
You don’t need to take out your cell phone, but you do it about 150 times a day. If you think 150 times is too many, it is because most people who have a smartphone think they use it less than half the time they actually use it.
You probably unlock it to see if you have received a message via Messenger or WhatsApp, if something happened on Twitter, if someone liked your Instagram photo or Facebook post, or if you received an important email.
Once inside, it’s hard to let go. The most popular applications in the world are designed so that, every time you use them, you receive a dopamine microdosis, in a circuit called an operant conditioning chamber.
That’s why you unlock the phone so many times without realizing it. The best minds of your generation work for large technology companies, looking for ways to make you do that as often as possible, because every time you do it, new data is generated.
The more time you spend using your phone, the more data you generate. And those companies live by converting your data into food for their artificial intelligence predictive algorithms.
Algorithms need a large amount of data to improve their predictions. Google takes them out of the mail, the maps, the search engine, YouTube and the Android operating system, among others. Amazon, from the store, the Kindle and the smart speakers.
Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Netflix are to phones what Uber is to cars. Spotify, Airbnb, Tinder, and others do the same.
But they also need a varied diet, so they work with data brokers, companies that track the rest of the data that is scattered and put them in one place.
They manage other sources: point cards, insurance, direct marketing, hackers, real estate, libraries, health laboratories, banks, pharmacies and more.
Digital platforms know what you do when you are connected, while data brokers pick up your data while you’re not.
Now there are cameras connected to facial identification systems that follow you without your knowledge, automatic license plate readers, satellites capable of reading your watch brand.
Predictive algorithms digest the data to know how to anticipate your desires, not always to satisfy them, but to change them.
When your data comes back to you, those who kidnapped them have transformed the world with it. They have chosen the ads you see and the price you pay for plane tickets, for renting a car, for dental insurance and everything else.
Your chances of getting credit and a new job have changed. They also choose the news that appears on your timeline, the Pokémon that appear on your map, the five best restaurants, the best way to get from A to B. Because you have become the micro objective of hundreds of campaigns. Not all are commercial.
The pro-Brexit campaign convinced millions of Britons that the Turks were about to invade Europe, and they did. So Brexit came about.
Trump convinced millions of Americans that there were bands of Central Americans “infesting” the United States. There were.
A Russian disinformation agency convinced half a million African-American activists not to vote for Hillary Clinton because voting for her was worse than voting for Trump.
Google swayed at least 3 million votes in favor of Hillary Clinton, according to Dr. Robert Epstein, and is in the process of swaying many more million votes in 2020, in favor of whoever the Democratic candidate is.
When they return to you, your data is no longer data, it is a worldview. And you don’t know who finances it or for what purpose.
You are just a user who has no power to recover your privacy, even if you stop using a smartphone, because these interests already have enough information about you, and they know what you are capable of and what you are not. Thanks to you, they also know a lot about your family, friends, and neighbors, and you cannot take it back. You cannot put the genie back inside the bottle.