Now that we—in the EU, at least—are all sick of the GDPR and would gift Lucifer our cookie consent on a Christmas tray if it meant the link would just go straight to the stupid article, our short-term memory as a society is rusty.
Remember the inspiring uprising in the immediate Cambridge Analytica aftermath, when grand plans were being made to topple the Zuckerbourgeoisie? The rage turned tepid once we collectively decided we’d rather follow Jenna from high school’s weight loss journey than seize the means of production. (But speaking of production, have you seen Jenna’s grain bowls?)
Cambridge Analytica is now defunct, but I like to imagine how things might have turned out if the firm had downsized and rehabbed its image by relocating. Had I been in charge of putting out the PR fires, I’d have advised them to move HQ to my Florence condo, where their data-culling methods would have seemed amateur—even pure—by my building’s standards. La privacy was a lost cause in Tuscan rental flats long before targeted Facebook ads were ever born.
I touched on la privacy (or lack thereof) in RD vol. 6, explaining how renting a ground floor flat with a modest garden has meant a surge in notes, sheepish knocks and window shouts from neighbors, all thanks to UFOs (Unidentified Falling Objects) that land on my turf. But in terms of concrete evidence of the privacy lacking in Florentine living, the U-F-O, I’ve learned, is no match for the D-O-G.
Adopting one is the fastest way to get (too) familiar with your fellow tenants, your landlord and that gray-haired gentleman in the next building over who’s perpetually lurking in the window. It’s also an eye-opening lesson in how much this crew has actually seen, overheard or inferred all along.
I once naïvely cashed in my third-floor neighbor’s offer to walk my dog when I couldn’t make it home on my lunch break; by 3.30pm, my phone was buzzing again. “I see you’re not home yet,” she wrote. “Want me to take him out a second time?” I said no. One guard dog was enough.
Then there was the sole party of last summer—a pre-pup affair and the One I Thought I Got Away With. A Saturday farewell shindig for my dearest friend, it continued well past quiet hours, but wrapped up without incident and was never repeated. Yet now, a year later, with a dog in the picture, it’s my omniscient landlady’s kingpin, the trump card dealt to shut down all debate with me. “But you had a party!” is my own personal “But her emails!”
Sadly, my party had no servers, private or otherwise.