I wonder if George Orwell were here if he would be shocked at how “1984” was more than a dystopian tale, yea it was prophecy, a veritable blueprint of the shape of things to come. The telescreen has finally arrived. It’s made by Facebook and called “Portals,” which is an interesting choice of name. Daily Beast:
The popular video game series “Portal” depicts a futuristic cyberhell in which an omniscient (and ultimately murderous) computer system taunts lab test participants, who are promised treats if they descend further into a corporate prison from which they cannot escape.
Portals is the telescreen, in mini form. It’s Facebook’s first hardware product, two tablet like devices that can watch and record you in your own home. But don’t worry, somebody will create an app soon to link it with your 46” Smart TV hanging in the living room, and to all the other TVs in the house, and then you’ll be fully online for fascist hell. And all in the name of togetherness.
“By focusing on meaningful connections, our community and business will be stronger over the long term,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Monday. Family-first is the new Facebook brand, and the Portals ads show Zuckerberg’s children playing with the devices. Teach ‘em young, they won’t know that you used to be able to take a s*it without it being filmed, how would they?
And you know this is all about money, right?
Behind Facebook’s kumbaya-style proselytizing about togetherness is a savvy marketing play: Facebook needs you online and looking at advertisements. It’s holding your cousin’s wedding photos hostage until you log in and, in doing so, accidentally look at an ad for Flat Tummy Tea or whatever. In the same January earnings call when Facebook announced a 50 million-hour daily drop in on-site time, it announced a 49 percent increase in advertising revenue since the previous year.
The tech giant’s best move might not be crafting an enjoying user experience (when is the last time you earnestly enjoyed being on Facebook?), but in making itself inescapable. When users tried to quit after Cambridge Analytica, they learned that they’d used their Facebook accounts to sign up for services like Spotify, and that they could no longer access those accounts. Facebook had made itself a universal login key for better websites.
The Facebook Portal is a physical encroachment into users’ lives. If put to its fullest use, the device will act as a smart home, connected to other accounts and dutifully listening in on domestic life. And quitting a device is harder than logging off. You can delete the Facebook app from your phone with few consequences, but hauling an expensive tablet to the curb for trash pickup is a more significant gesture.
The tech community is already having conniption fits over Portals. Tech writer Om Malik blasted the program as “destroying any notion of privacy. If you install this, then it is very likely that Facebook is going to be able to track your every move, and every little action,” Malik wrote, noting that Facebook was “a company that is known to have played loose-and-easy with consumer privacy and data since its very inception, asking for forgiveness whenever we caught them with its hand in the cookie jar.”
I used to think that Mark Zuckerberg was a genius but now my feeling is that he had no more clue of what he was doing than Victor Frankenstein did when he sewed together the body parts to make his monster. But then Zuckerberg got the big money and all he can think of is to get even more, irregardless of the damage his monster wreaks. Facebook has already proven itself devoid of moral conscience and this fascist privacy invasion device, masked in the family values meme is merely the next step downward for them.
Remember the scene in “The Stand” where Satan’s girlfriend gets in the elevator and intones, “We are dead and this is Hell?” Think about it. And if you buy Portals, caveat emptor.
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