Make Facebook and Google pay for all the data they’ve taken from us


Facebook and Google have been monetising our lives, but we can (and should) monetise them back.

Seems that Mark Zuckerberg’s dreamboat has become a zombie ship of ghouls. This month Facebook has turned into farce-book.

While we were all sharing pics of our morning cappuccino and cute cats, Facebook was scraping our lives and turning the shavings into hard cash. Whenever we clicked that like button we were clicking money directly into Mr Zuckerberg’s bank account. The button ought to come with a loud ka-ching sound effect. The icon is a thumb’s up, but it may as well be a dollar sign. Or perhaps the thumb means ‘Cheers, mate! Another one born every minute!’

Let’s try a little thought experiment. Imagine Starbucks was eliciting donations of coffee beans and milk from its customers and then selling them back to us as cappuccino. We’d see right away that this wasn’t a caring-sharing business model, we wouldn’t have to scrunch our faces in an agony of dilemma and say, yeah, but, I like Starbucks coffee. We’d just go elsewhere. Yet, this is more or less how Facebook works and how many of us are reacting to it.

Or put another way, if I came into your living room, nicked the photos off the wall and sold them on the street, I’d be arrested. It would be called theft. In Facebook’s case, it’s called an innovative business model.

How much money has Facebook made over the years? Well, even Wikipedia doesn’t know. It’s a number so big only astrophysicists can deal with it. A year ago, Facebook was valued at $407 billion. Mr Zuckerberg himself is, at the time of writing, valued at $61 billion, which while being about $14 billion down on this time last week, is still a lot of cappuccino.

Facebook’s business model was no secret, but now it turns out that the ship of ghouls is a leaky old tub, and was open to piratical plunder by just about anyone who cared to wander in by way of an inane personality quiz and nick the family digital silverware. More alarming still, anyone with a political axe to grind was hacking in too. These players were not so much swinging elections as swinging them around their heads.

Users have been feeling a mite let down and, rallying to #deletefacebook, have been deserting that ship in droves, which, at first thought, seems like a wholly reasonable reaction.


Let’s face it, many people like the ‘Book. In these times of restless populations and scattered families, and especially for those of us who live abroad, Facebook has proved a neat way of staying in touch. We can keep up with our pals and family across continents and timezones just as well as with those across town. The primary means of communication for the professional organisations I belong to is Facebook. If you run a small business you can get your message to the punters without shelling for the huge ad rates of traditional publications. We can cosy up with our favourite celebs and our heroes, and immerse ourselves in everyone else’s breakfast 24 hours a day.

There are those users who are unconcerned about this data piracy. When people say they don’t care about Facebook taking their data, they are saying they don’t care that their lives are grist for a rich man’s money mill.

The amount of data Facebook has collected is staggering. And Google has collected even more. If Facebook is a vacuum cleaner for data, Google is a black hole. 

So, deleting your account or just ignoring the situation are two options, but I have a better idea, and it’s a very simple one.

Mr Zuckerberg, you have made gazillions of dollars from our data, so why don’t you simply pony up? Why don’t you pay us our share?

It would be like your users, the ones you once referred to as ‘dumb fucks,’ becoming your business partners, becoming real stakeholders — in short, it would be like Facebook becoming a respectable business.

So the simple remedy is for Mr Zuckerberg to share his enormous profits with the people who have provided the raw materials for his product. We can be paid a fair price according to how much we have engaged with the platform over the years. That would be easy for Facebook to work out since they have kept a record of every interaction you’ve had with anybody on their platform since you joined.

So, that’s a gazillion dollars divided between 2.2 billion users … you do the sums. There must at least be a cappuccino in that for each of us. And if this is to be a community and not a factory farm for data, we should then each of us have control over which bits of our lives to monetise, and which bits should be kept out of the data store. If this happens, Facebook may start to look like the community we all thought it was when we started using it.

And when we’re done with Facebook, we can make the same deal with Google, which has collected even more data on us. Where Facebook is a vacuum cleaner for data, Google is a black hole.

After all, Mr Zuckerberg, as you capitalists are fond of pointing out to us dumb fucks, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

And why shouldn’t I be paid for my data? It is after all my life.

Afterword: I have started a petition aimed at getting Facebook and Google to accept their responsibilities. You can join in here.


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Hey, honey, I shot the kids!

I originally posted this story on in 2004 when I first learned of the existence of this thing called an AR-15, a gun that has featured in so many killings in the US.

Since then, the AR-15 has been in the news a great deal (see the foregoing link), but time nor the repetition of tragedy have dulled my incredulity that pretty well anyone can go out and buy themselves a military-grade weapon.

So for no particular reason other than my mind is still boggled, here’s that post again.

Shoot the neighbours

This morning I had a pair of sick-world revelations.

I was reading an online BBC report about how Clinton’s ban on the purchase of assault weapons is about to be repealed.

That was sick world feeling number one.

Sick world feeling number two: the BBC, to help its non gun-toting readers along, listed three typical assault weapons — the AK47, the Uzi and something called an AR-15, which was described as a civilian version of the military M-16.

A civilian version of the M-16!

What civilian application can there be of a weapon that fires 1000 rounds per minute, is deadly at ranges over a kilometre and whose bullets can penetrate house walls?

You can imagine the scene in American suburbs. The sun is shining, the butterflies are flapping in the garden.

Hubby tells wife,”Hey, hon, I’m hefting my AR-15 so I’m just out to cut the grass. And then I’m going to shoot it. And then I’m going to shoot the flowers a while.”



“OK, hon. I’ll be right here in the kitchen with my Uzi shooting the washing up.”

“Then maybe later I’ll put up that book shelf in the den.”

“Make sure you shoot it after. You know you sometimes forget.”


Deadly assault weapon

“Hey, how about we get the neighbours round tonight for a cook out?”

“And then we can have a nice shoot out together. Sounds blissy.”

“Say, did you feed the dog?”

“No, but I did shoot it.”

“Well, that should keep him happy a while.”

Guns don’t kill people. Idiots with guns kill people.

September 14, 2004

That was 2004. There have been a lot of shooting events since then. Now I would have to add extra dialogue to reflect the current reality. Such as:

“Well, hon, I’m just going to drop by the school to shoot the kids.”

“OK, make sure you get a couple of teachers too. Oh, by the way, can you pick up a pack of brats on the way home?”

“Sure thing, hon. Now don’t go restricting my right to bear arms while I’m out.”

“No chance of that darling. I need my gun to protect myself from idiots with guns.”

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2018, innit!

2018, innit! Doghouse, dog’s life, dog days, or the actual dog’s bollocks? Live on to find out.


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This working li(f)e (part whatever in an infinite series)


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This working li(f)e (part 1 in an infinite series)


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Nine hilarious wardrobe fails you haven’t seen before (really!)


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A question from my cat to Donald Trump


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Shit, Sherlock!


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Men, will you stop posting #MeToo on your social media timelines

“The point is, there is a huge historical and social context behind the harassment of women that does not apply to men.”

It’s depressing at the best of times, logging on to Facebook, Twitter or whatever and seeing laid bare the non-workings of the modern human mind. There is an audible grinding noise as posters try to get their heads around the simplest of issues and finally come up with something that has all the charm and meaning of a splash of vomit in a cake shop.

It was bad enough when people who could barely locate the city on a map and knew no more of the language than what they’d gleaned from The Pink Panther flew the tricolour on their profile picture in the wake of the Paris massacre and declared they were actually French.

Now men are posting the #MeToo tag on their timeline as if they had personally had Harvey Weinstein’s hand down the front of their boxers.

Yes, men can be sexually harassed, and it does happen. Yes, men can feel violated by such experiences and it does happen. But no, however disturbing your male experience, it is not the same kind of thing that women are talking about. And in thinking there is some equivalence, you are being, well, a bit embarrassing, really.

Your ‘Me Too’ is not the ‘Me Too’ of someone who has experienced systemic (and sometimes systematic) harassment, abuse, control, or assault. Your ‘Me Too’ is the ‘Me Too! Me Too! Me Too!’ of a small child who has spotted a game the cool kids are playing and wants in.

#MeToo is not a bandwagon. It’s a device that illustrates something that half the world’s population has to deal with and which men don’t.

Rather than seeing this as a worthy trend like an LBGT rainbow on your profile pic, we probably ought to be looking at your timeline and paying attention to the enormous number of women acquaintances who are posting the Me Too hashtag. We might reflect that those messages are the tip of the iceberg, because many women will have chosen not to participate in this campaign.

I am a straight male and I too have experienced sexual harassment. I have had one truly disturbing experience when a man thought he could use what he perceived as a power relationship and what he thought was an exploitable vulnerability of me living and working in his country without proper documentation in order to do things I didn’t want to do. And he did this in a more or less public place surrounded by buddies who seemed to be sympathetic to his ambitions. I think a great number of women will recognise that situation or something very like it.

Although very unsettled and somewhat frightened, I was able to get away from that incident intact, and, better than that, was able to remove myself from that arsehole’s orbit completely.

That was thirty years ago and still today, in the darkest hours of insomnia, that memory creeps out of its memory hole and gibbers at me.

However alarming, it’s still not the same as what women deal with because it was a one-off, it was not a feature of my existence as a male; it had not happened before, it has not happened since; it is not something that happens to my male friends, and crucially, it is not a hazard of being my gender.

As for the unwanted attentions of women, is there not — be honest straight guys — a smidgen of ‘Of course she would want a bit of me, what woman wouldn’t?’ and how intimidated or violated do we really feel after those experiences even when we were (lucky enough to be) groped?

Let’s face it, a great number of men who express outrage at unwanted attentions and intrusive behaviour from women are probably only outraged that a woman has taken the initiative in what the man thinks is his prerogative.

Male Me Too posters can never and should never assume that any experiences they have had are equivalent to what women put up with on a daily basis.

“It’s a bit of a giveaway that men have built around women a cutting-edge, world-encompassing technology of masturbation.”

The point is, there is a huge historical and social context behind the harassment of women that does not apply to men. In various cultures at various times, widows have been murdered to accompany their departed husbands into the afterlife, girls have been sold for dowries because women are, as we all know, unproductive and a burden to men except when cooking their food, washing our clothes, bearing our children, or giving us oral relief. Women have had to fight to get jobs, vote, drive cars, or be seen in public. Women are promoted less, paid less, and more likely to be exploited for such advancements than a man, who only has to put up with matey beers and golf on weekends to get ahead; getting the leg up without the leg over, as it were.

If we as men were regarded by 50 per cent of the human race as less capable, emotionally unstable, and as chattels; things regarded with entitlement; as objects to be touched, prodded, coerced, ordered around, slapped on the bum, told our heads are full of cotton, hay and rags, and then appraised for shagability before being even asked our name, our experience of harassment might be equivalent to that of women.

But it isn’t.

So don’t post.

And men, we might ask ourselves this — and women might ask men the same thing — is this urge to share in women’s trauma a means to bond through sympathy or a means to bond in the hope of getting laid?

Let’s face it, the historical male view of women is a bit single-minded.

It’s a bit of a giveaway that men have built around women a cutting-edge, world-encompassing technology of masturbation. It’s called it the internet and we have networked every possible thing that might have computing power in order to share pictures of bare bottoms. In doing this we have wanked into enough tissues to cause a worldwide crisis of deforestation. Even as I write this, men are creating new technologies in order to build sex robots that will do the things we believe from porn that women should do and that real women are dismissed as slags for not doing.

There is some hope I suppose that the sex robots will be such a turn-on that men will finally leave women alone — after all, when did rubber and aluminium ever press charges or insist on conversation or demand you don’t wear your shoes in bed?

But if that doesn’t happen, we’ll have to rely on men actually learning not to see women as something to neg or grab, and that doesn’t leave much space for optimism. After thousands of years men have not shown much aptitude for learning. We have still not learned, for example, not to have wars, drink pints of creme de menthe for a bet, or insert objects in our own urethras.

To go back to an earlier point, it seems from the proliferation of #MeToo posts that almost every woman has been harassed. Surely that implies that almost every man has at some point harassed a woman. The darker, hidden text of the male #MeToo is that it could just as well mean, ‘Yes, me too, I’ve harassed women.’

So, stop posting that #MeToo. You’re looking like, well, a bit of a twat, really.


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Engerland uber alles — a brainspotter’s guide

I’ve been doodling.


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