Data Collection and Pay Walls

When you are of a certain age (anyone keeping track of how many times I’ve begun this way?), the term “big brother” does not refer to a reality program. No – it is a literary reference to something many of us thought would never become reality. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, Google it. Feed the technological monster that has contributed to what now amounts to us having little to no genuine privacy.

The beauty part of not having much of an income at the moment is that I am able to blog at will, expressing my discontent with the way the world is currently working. Today, I’m focusing on two topics: data collection and pay walls. Apparently, there are new and exciting ways to collect data from garden-variety office schmoes, and there are pay walls going up on Web sites “schnorring” for money to access content that frankly, isn’t worth the bandwidth it occupies.

Last night, while taking a break from my daily Netflix viewing, I stumbled upon an article about new data collection technology being tested in an office of international accounting firm Deloitte in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Interesting place to be testing such technology – Newfoundland – is there concern that too much Newfie screech is finding its way into daily Tim Hortons double-doubles? Anyway, Humanyze, a Boston-based techie firm, is testing new sensor-equipped I.D. badges that track employee activities, sending analytics to superiors to analyze productivity.

The founders of Humanyze claim their creation, which was used as a doctoral thesis while they were studying at M.I.T., will become “ubiquitous”, helping companies to improve efficiency. TheĀ  device will not track how many bathroom-breaks or conversations an employee has; instead, it will “create a work environment with positive interactions and show how each employee fits into the bigger picture using irrefutable data”. Read: weed out the weak, and reward the strong. How Darwinian. And you don’t have to believe in evolution.

Before my big brother discovery, I read about how the Kardashian/Jenner women were at some Apple event in New York, talking about the launch of their new Web sites, and corresponding mobile apps. I took a look at a couple of the sites, just for shits and giggles, and found that certain sections of each are blocked by pay walls, requiring users to pay a monthly fee if they want to access some of the content: things like Kylie Jenner’s makeup tutorials and OOTDs (outfits of the day). I was suitably miffed – doesn’t that family make enough money to allow their followers complete and total access to everything they do, without having to further line their pockets? I mean, they sell clothing at Sears, and makeup at Wal Mart, for fuck’s sake. Do they really need to squeeze $2.99 a month more out of their minions? That definitely qualifies as “schnorring”. That’s another word you can Google.

According to the site Broadly, a division of Vice, which operates various Web sites and video channels for “young people” (how soon before age walls go up?), Kylie Jenner’s new app crashed Apple’s App Store, with users eager for the privilege of contributing to the 18- year-old’s lip-injection-and-hair-extension trust fund. The article states that many downloaders don’t even like Kylie; they just want to do whatever they can to be privy to what she does so they can be like her.

So that leads me to ask this question: As a society, how fucked are we? We submit to having our employers track our every move in the name of efficiency, and we revere an 18-year-old who clearly got the short end of the stick in the parenting department. I’m not begrudging Caitlyn Jenner her transition, but even a childless woman like me can tell that Kylie could have used a tad more direction before reaching the age of majority. A mansion and a $300,000 automobile do not make up for absentee parents.

And here’s another question to ponder: What is happening to those of us who are on the outside looking in? We are struggling in a world where our value changes in the blink of an eye. On some days, we’re exalted for our life experience, and on others, we’re afraid there are spots reserved for us on an ice floe waiting to be pushed out to sea. We’re not efficient enough, or hip enough. We aren’t respected. If you don’t have an app or a YouTube channel, you’re relegated to the rubbish pile, to toil in obscurity while you are victimized by data collection and pay walls.

Too melodramatic? I don’t think so. Some of us over the age of 40 are not content living in this world where the individuals who matter don’t remember what life was like before technology took over. I’m not saying we need to revert to living a Victorian lifestyle (a possible topic for another blog), but we need to find a way to co-exist with younger people who seem bent on making us miserable.

If Rodney Dangerfield (more Googling for you) were still around, he’d still be squawking about not getting any respect. He’d be joined by people my age who feel like we’ve never stopped getting the shit end of the stick. We must be monitored, fleeced, and deprived, while people more than half our age are rewarded for doing exactly nothing.

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