Imagine a well-meaning abattoir worker sweating day in day out at a fetid facility witnessing all manner of gawd awful practices taking place. Routines including denying animals access to water on arrival at the abattoir after an exhausting train ride; a callous disregard for animal welfare and the outrageous application of electric prodders to "manage" the herd.
Now imagine that chap turning into a whistleblower.
So far so good, don't you think?
Are you still with me? One more step please.
Now envision that after listing all the animal deprivations (both current and historic), obfuscations, deceit, corner cuttings and other shenanigans that go on every tick of the clock, the worker is at an epic loss to provide a remedy for the serious lamentations he has described.
Now you know what reading Digital Vertigo: How Today's Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us by Andrew Keen feels like.
The book is interesting, covers a broad swathe of the privacy space and promises a great deal, but boy does it under deliver. Does it ever.
It's author, Andrew Keen is a Silicon Valley netpreneur, the host of TechCrunch.com, CNN.com commentator and author. He is besotted by technology and mesmerised by its world leading innovators, designers and thinkers. He is acutely aware of technology's intrusions into the lives of most folk and he grieves over how asinine we have behaved in permitting this technology to infiltrate our lives.
While recognising how hi-tech giants like Facebook and Twitter manufacture products that prima facie enhance our lives, he is afraid that hi-tech's silver lining comes complete with its own very dark cloud: consumers are shepherded in new ways by multimillionaires (think Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman and Jack Dorsey ) who determine not only how our online lives are managed, but how they are recorded and broadcast to both our "friends" and our non-"friends".
In short, this book opens fire at the phenomenon of "social media" which Keen claims is the first step towards hypervisibility, a condition where everything about us will be publically available to everyone. All because while we thought that because using Facebook, Twitter, Google and the like did not cost us dollars to use, we naturally assumed these applications were "free". As Keen repeats time and again, there is nothing "free". And no start-up zillionaire is working his patootie off 24/7 because he is a poet, a philosopher or altruistic. It's all about the accumulation of capital and consumers are merely online assets to be sold or loaned to third parties in return for revenue streams. It's that simple.
Regrettably while Keen alerts us to our impending loss of all privacy, he doesn't explain the ramifications to consumers of that loss. He sounds right, if vague, but it's hard to barrack for a chap who is long on allegations and frugal with the evidence, let alone remedies.
The loss of privacy is enabled by what Keen explains as the quest for "one identity", a sect led by Harvard grad and Facebook Chief "Friend" Mark Zuckerberg. David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect recalls that when interviewed, Zuckerberg declared that having more than one identity signals a "lack of integrity."