Pixel: Data Capture Without Our Consent #WOC2020
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Without privacy, democracy cannot exist. People lose their freedom of speech. They lose their ability to have a differing opinion. We start to eliminate all the things that make a healthy democracy function. We silence or muffle opposing voices. We start to eliminate any reasonable conflict between opposing views that help a community grow. We eliminate any type of security around sources, informants, or whistleblowers who aim to keep us on the right path by exposing government misdeeds or corruption. We eliminate our freedom — our ability to live without fear of someone looking over our back 24/7, and our ability to live without fear of persecution for our views. When we fail to protect our privacy rights, we fail to protect the democracy that so many people died to protect before us.
Large numbers of internet companies fire a tracking pixel at the top of a web page within milliseconds of you going there, immediately capturing data about “unknown users.” In many cases, this Pixel (Facebook Pixel) is owned by Facebook. An unknown user is somebody who is not signed in or has not been assigned a user ID by the community whose website they are on. Quite simply, the companies does not know who you are. Many times, that user has never previously visited the online company (and therefore has never been presented with — and educated on — the terms and conditions for that digital land).
A large online community, like Facebook, however, does know who you are, even if you haven’t visited their community in a long period of time. As such, Facebook uses these pixels to secretly capture (mine) data about you — pieces of your digital identity — mined on other websites — without you knowing or consenting to it — and use that mined data — your data — to earn massive profits. This is like one nation allowing another nation to mine gold (data) — while violating human rights— on their land. Both nations should be held accountable for the violation of rights that occur when that gold (data) is being mined. By using that single data point — the one that says you went to that specific community — Facebook can sell a targeted advertising opportunity to the company (community) whose website you just landed on (and others too). You literally just stepped one foot onto that digital nation’s soil, and you are expected to have understood and agreed to the terms and conditions (the laws) without any education and without having been presented an opportunity to accept or reject those restrictions on your freedom. You couldn’t agree because the terms and conditions are at the bottom of the page and the pixel fired at the top of the page (this happens in milliseconds). The terms and conditions (the laws) were forced on you. These communities have colluded and are violating your rights in the name of profits from data (gold) mining. There is no place where you have agreed to have your rights violated in this manner simply by being a user of the internet. Do not let them trick you into thinking that is the case.
This seems like a clear infringement on our right to privacy (the thing that protects our democracy). That data mining is destroying our democracy. Our rights are being violated and we are being spied on.
There is no reasonable level of expectation that the average user of the internet would know how to prevent this surveillance from happening, nor would they know how to identify it is even happening in the first place. They haven’t been properly educated. It is invasive, unethical, and, quite frankly, it feels like a online community taking advantage of its members knowing full well that these members are operating in the dark without the ability to properly protect themselves. This sounds like what large banks were doing to profit on unsuspecting loan-seekers who did not understand the terms and conditions that they were agreeing to during the housing crisis. Instead of inflated home prices due to predatory lending, a lot of these internet communities seem to have inflated valuations based on predatory data capture. The true value of some of these companies is simply that of a connector, linking 1 person to the content of another person. These communities are claiming 100% of the value generated in the network when, in reality, they are providing a service that is probably only worth 1–5% of that value (while the remaining 95–99% of the value should be attributed to members of the community — the users — many of whom have been providing massive value for years without any compensation or social equity).
A person is no less a person just because they are viewed as an unknown user by the community that is collecting their data. If a community or company is telling you that they are collecting (mining) your data but they don’t look at it — that it’s anonymous, or that they only look at the “bad” people’s data that they mine — that doesn’t make it alright. The person whose data is being mined has rights, and those rights should be protected — by you, me, and everyone else. If that person’s rights aren’t protected, nobody’s rights are protected — everyone is equal. You are the same person, whether you are known or unknown by the company, community, or website you are visiting. You have the same expectation of privacy and protection in both instances. You have the same rights.
Even if you attempted to read all the terms and conditions before stepping foot on that digital soil — which is really hard to do when communities and companies keep changing terms and conditions, while lacking consistent standards, policies, guidelines, and languages across communities — you’d find that many terms are buried so deep into random provisions (and written with such tricky language) that everyday members of the community — users and citizens — would be hard-pressed to locate and understand them. None of these communities have any interest in teaching you about these terms so you can understand. The community leaders (seemingly the only people with freedom) don’t want you to understand the terms and conditions because they are obtaining endless wealth due to your lack of understanding. Sometimes these community leaders even afford themselves extra layers of security or protection — something no other community member gets. If you understood the terms and conditions — if you were properly educated on these terms — you would know that you are sacrificing the future of our democracy. You would realize you’ve sacrificed your freedom…little by little…and that you are on a path to losing it completely. Freedom is your key to wealth and prosperity.
The manner in which this data is being collected is comparable to an illegal search, protected by the 4th Amendment.
This isn’t just Facebook violating your rights, as all these companies are working together and are equally responsible. However, Facebook is the common link that is tying a lot of these rights violations together, and the pixel that is doing the damage is operating on Facebook servers.
We need online communities, like Facebook, to respect the rights we all share…rights that we all protect for each other at all costs. Why? Because it takes just 1 single pixel — one small piece of data (gold) being mined — mined in a way that violates even one person’s rights — and this will continue until it becomes a groundswell — a swell that signals an upcoming earthquake — an earthquake from all the data (gold) mining — so big that it completely destroys our democracy.
Data rights are human rights. Stop Mark Zuckerberg from violating human rights.
“We have to start somewhere. We have to start sometime. What better place than here. What better time than now.” – Rage Against the Machine
1. Sign this petition and share it on social media with the hashtag #WOC2020
2. Go to WithoutOurConsent.com to sign up to join a class action against Facebook
3. Donate to our cause so we can fund a legal team. The United States and ACLU have both failed to protect our data rights and compensate us fairly for rights violations. We can handle this ourselves.
4. Submit your own screen captures (like the one above) to prove that Facebook is violating your rights. If you have underage children with a Facebook account, we advise you to capture every online session in which their rights are being violated.
5. Read the full version of this article to better understand the problem.
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