There’s a pervasive scam going on in IT. You mention in an email to a friend how you wish you were on a tropical island vacation, only to be inundated with ads for great deals at alluring luxury resorts in Fiji and the Bahamas.

Never mind not being able to hop on a plane the next morning, the ads pitch you relaxing on the warm sand that afternoon. While that is frustrating, the greater issue is how Google ads targets your personal emails.

By now, most of us have grown accustomed to these everyday invasions of privacy from media giants. We are willing to sacrifice privacy for connectivity.

We float along with the vague awareness that Facebook, Amazon, Google, Waze, and a plethora of other behemoth companies track our every move. We are okay with the fact that retailers like Target don’t even need a receipt anymore. A return can be executed by pulling up our entire purchase history based on Cartwheel, or even our debit card.

Tracking is heating up?

As the peer economy began to evolve, we didn’t bat an eye over tracking by parent companies like Uber, Turo, and Airbnb. We chose to ignore the fact that all that personal data we entered into the platform put us into an enormous pool of individuals whose every move is recorded, all in the name of convenience. Countless mobile apps and websites carefully market their privacy policies as ways to make our lives better. Easier!

Then the Jessie Smollet fake hate crime story emerged from Chicago. We were initially horrified that a hate crime was propagated against a beloved public figure. We were more horrified to learn Smollet exploited both his race and sexual orientation, seemingly with the sole purpose of greater media exposure.

How was Smollet’s gross breach of public trust and human decency exposed? In an attempt to build a hate crime case, police used credit card payment records, surveillance video (at 32,000, Chicago boasts more security cameras than any other U.S. city), and Uber records. What they found, rather than proof of racist criminal activity, was evidence of falsifying a hate crime.

Can’t fake it anymore

All this is a real problem for actors and actresses, Instagram influencers, YouTube stars, teenagers, stay at home moms, working moms, and basically anyone who wants their online life to look a lot different, a lot better, then their reality. And really, at some point or other, hasn’t everyone wanted that?

Even if our actions are honorable, if we aren’t hiding an affair, criminal activity, or simply trying to make our lives look a little shinier and more interesting than they actually are, is this how we want to live?

In his book A Global History of Cooperative Business, Greg Patmore likens this tech economy-enforced Big Brother reality to the beginnings of fascist regimes a la Hitler and Mussolini, and he isn’t alone in this opinion.

Jessie Smollet lost $125,000 per Empire episode by faking his reality. Most of us don’t have that. Nor do we have the power or the platform to ruin lives and minimize real human rights issues like he did. But what we do have to lose – our privacy and ultimately our self-respect – isn’t that worth more than money?

 

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