Spyware 2.0

From here: https://aralbalkan.com/notes/spyware-2.0/

Spyware 2.0 is not cloak and dagger. It’s not hiding in the shadows; it’s hiding out in plain sight like some saccharine Ronald McDonald statue. Spyware 2.0 is all cute doodles and loveable dinosaurs. It’s all the colours of the rainbow. Spyware 2.0 is so damn adorable that you just want to hug it as tightly as you can and never let it go. Spyware 2.0 loves you like a kitten.

The only difference between Spyware 1.0 and Spyware 2.0 is that the purveyors of spyware in the Internet era are not doing it entirely in secret.

I say entirely because they are not completely transparent either. Privacy policies spell out general usage but omit granular, comprehensive use cases. What analysis and experiments do they perform on you and your behaviour? How is the data you provide combined with other third-party data and what additional insights about you does this provide? Given the myriad of applications for your personal information, some of which haven’t been dreamed up yet, I would argue that is it impossible for spyware vendors to be entirely transparent and comprehensive in their disclosures even if they wanted to be.

Spyware: the dominant business on the Internet

Whereas Spyware 1.0 was an anomaly — easily-identified as malware — Spyware 2.0 is the hegemonic norm of the Internet era; rendered invisible by its very ubiquity.

The purveyors of Spyware 2.0 tell us that we have the choice to not use their services; that we volunteer our data willingly. But do we really have a choice when the business model of spyware itself is a monopoly on the Internet today?

Say I choose not to use Google and use Yahoo instead. What is Yahoo’s business model? Oh, it’s the same: to spy on me. If I drop Flickr for Instagram, what is Instagram’s business model? Yep, you guessed it! As the business of spyware is a monopoly on the Internet today, the choice we’re actually being presented with is this: either accept being spied on or go disconnect yourself from modern life.

Spyware is the perfect term to call the services, devices, and connectivity offered by companies whose business model it is to observe and study us in order to manipulate our behaviour for profit. It is the term that I will be using from now on and I invite you to do the same.