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Internet privacy
Will Durst

Internet privacy. Forget about it. It’s another of those oxymorons you hear so much about; like gluten-free dim sum or fully satisfied “Game of Thrones” fan or Donald Trump’s Modern Guide to Etiquette and Manners. You have a better chance of finding a pod of humpback whales in your office cubicle than online security.

And the greatest threat in this confidentiality crisis is Facebook, the information octopus that disguises its sticky tentacles with cute kitten videos and pictures of grandmas blowing out birthday cake candles while it records your every keystroke. Every “like” of every post. Your favorite porn gif.  

The situation has become so alarming, co-founder Chris Hughes called for the company to be broken up. Mark Zuckerberg says no need for that: he’s learned his lesson and promises to be good from now on. And we can trust him, right? Because he’s only lied about every privacy issue that’s ever emerged so far. Ever.

The Mueller Report detailed how Russian trolls used Facebook’s analytical tools to flood America with fraudulent groups and ads for the single purpose of opposing Hillary Clinton. By the time the accounts were deactivated in 2017, 126 million Americans had been exposed to, well, no other way to describe it than...fake news.

Remember when Facebook admitted to manipulating posts to gauge our emotional response then sold the research data? They’re still doing it. We’re just lab rats to them. But even lab rats get some cheese. Hey Facebook, keep your cookies: how about some cheese?

The standard defense is we signed on when we signed up, but you’ve seen those user agreements. Nobody reads them. It’s doubtful the people who write them, read them. Lawyers speaking in a language solely understood by other lawyers. And even then, only occasionally.  

The agreements are longer than the migratory path of a monarch butterfly and in a font so tiny it would make a flea squint. So we scroll to the bottom and click “accept.” And if we wake up two weeks later in a bathtub full of ice with a scar where our kidney used to be, well, them’s the breaks.

And the internet never forgets. Check out a piece of hardware, then decide you don’t need it. Doesn’t matter, because... boom, there it is. On every website you visit for the next six months. It follows you around like a haunted fungus. Suddenly everybody is having a sale on a festive array of red white and blue plastic bull semen inseminators. Don’t ask.  

We’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. It’s too late to put this genie back in the bottle, but there are going to be plenty of other bottles to worry about. Universal facial recognition is right around the corner. Although some of us are lucky enough to have faces no one wants to recognize.

You think its creepy when Facebook tags us in photos we didn’t post? Wait until they develop an algorithm in which we’re the villains in videos where the hero ruling over the Seven Kingdoms bears a striking resemblance to Mark Zuckerberg. 

Most importantly, we got to learn not to post anything on social media we don’t want prospective employers, mothers-in-law or IRS agents to know about. Back everything up. With hard copies. Cloud storage is fine, until it rains. And there’s a storm coming.

Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comic and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin.