Data Privacy is a Lie

Everyone has that one friend who is constantly harping on about how you have to protect your privacy. They scare you with some factoid about how User Data is being stolen and how you need to essentially stop using mainstream tech.

Well, I have good news, and I have bad news. The bad news is that they are right. The good news is that their solution (to stop using tech) is doomed to fail. In fact, it’s been designed to fail.

“Data Privacy” is a ruse designed to bamboozle you and ensure that your data remains stolen. It’s a distraction from a much more powerful conversation: Data Ownership.‍

Privacy Policies are Useless

Pop quiz! When was the last time you actually read one of those GDPR notifications when visiting a website? Can’t remember? Well, you probably clicked on one to get to this article.

Let’s be real: anything that stands between you and the Tiktok you got sent, or your next Amazon viral kitchen gadget purchase doesn’t stand a chance. Click, accept, move on. That’s the routine we all get used to.

Why are we talking about “Privacy” then?

Many companies have now embraced Data Privacy for one reason and one reason only: it sounds good but does little.

Let me break it down for you. Say you use a service - let’s call it Facespace - and you want to assert your “privacy rights”; you have to jump through several hoops.

First, you have to know what your rights are. This sounds simple but let me ask you this: do you know what your privacy rights are? No? I don’t blame you. Depending on where you are in the world, you may not even have any.

Even if you do, companies do a fantastic job of making you sign away these rights as part of their Terms of Use (yes, that other thing you probably didn’t read).

But imagine that you were able to work it out. What then? Well, if you were to go to a company and say, “I want my privacy rights back,” they would probably give you one of two responses: (1) silence; or, (2) “Sure, here’s your data, now you are never allowed to use the platform again.”

In rare cases, they may offer you some hush money if you can afford a credible lawyer or join a class action, ergo the Meta Pixel cases, but after scammy lawyers' fees are taken out, you’d maybe be left with a few hundred bucks and probably a platform ban as well.

Failure by Design

Now, you can always fight back, but for what? What do you actually want? You probably want them to not be such sharks when it comes to your personal data. You probably want a bit of transparency over what they use your data for.

However, you are but one in a sea of billions to them, and Facespace and its CEO, Stark Muckerberg, are probably not going to change the way they do things just because you ask nicely.

The whole Data Privacy system is designed to do exactly this: to create a frustrating, unenforceable, impractical process through which everyday people have to choose between using tech or living off-grid.

Companies have done a fantastic job of pandering to the policy wonks and high intellectuals to entrench a system that sounds good but does nothing and keeps us all hamstrung.

The Dangerous Words: Data Ownership

Why is “Data Ownership” such a dangerous phrase for companies? In short, once you stop talking about rights and start talking about money, people’s ears perk up.

Ownership implies value. Once I own something, if you take that away from me or prevent me from having it, that’s theft.

If you then sell the thing, that’s even worse. Sound familiar? Reddit just sold its user data to an “unnamed AI company” for $60 million a year. Any Reddit users out there? How do you feel about this?

If we’re in the realm of “Privacy Rights”, we’re stuck begging corporations to hear us. If we start talking about ownership, we start to surface the system for what it is: profit at our expense. That’s what they are afraid of.

Take Back Control: Assert Your Data Ownership

So how do you actually assert data ownership? It’s a good question.

You assert it in the same way as you assert ownership of your Car. You insert the keys, take control of the steering wheel, and do whatever the heck you want to do with it!

For many people, the notion of “personal data” is so abstract that they don't even know what to do with it. This is also by design; companies profit by keeping you ignorant about the power of your data.

However, with tools like Vana, everyday folks can easily reclaim their data from big tech platforms. Once reclaimed, users can literally talk to their data to discover useful insights and then use it in all sorts of new AI-powered applications. You can even make data collectives with it and sell it yourself if you want.

For the first time, you get to take control of your data and use it to create applications built by you, for you.

Try it out:

You should own your data and the AI it creates. This means transparent data permissions and a system that moves beyond cookie popups and towards true ownership.

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