Social Media Convergence == Bad?

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Social Media Convergence == Bad?

As mobile devices and apps make their way into more peoples hands across the globe, are we signing our privacy's death warrant?

· Web Dev Zone ·
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I was recently in Shanghai. Great city! Enjoyed the trip, the city, and the people. When I travel, I usually use cash, not credit. There's plenty of ATMs around, and Shanghai was no exception. One of the things that really struck me while I was there was the overwhelming presence of mobile computing. I mean, when I was on the subway in Shanghai, all I could see were the tops of people's heads. Everybody was on a cell phone.

Now I've been around. I've been on the London underground, Paris and Vienna metros, New York's subway, and Washington DC's transportation system. Sure, we all use our phones, but we usually look up every once in a while, and we don't stay on them that long. But in Shanghai, it was completely different. Mobile computing is completely integrated with modern Chinese life — in Shanghai at least. And I expect Beijing is no different.

The other thing I noticed was the number of rented bikes. Everybody was renting bikes there. Kind of like scooters in major US and European cities, but something like 5x as many (really, believe it or not). I quickly realized that these bikes were all rentable via mobile phones, just as scooters are. And I quickly learned that this rental was done with either AliPay or WeChat. As just about everything else mobile is in China. I was lucky — I only ended up at a shop once that would only take WeChat or AliPay, and wouldn't (well, couldn't, really, they weren't set up for it) take cash. I was lucky, I bought the guy behind me a coffee and in exchange he used WeChat to pay for the two of us.

Just as mobile computing has infiltrated everything a modern Chinese urbanite does, WeChat or AliPay is at the heart of everything they use, everywhere they go, and anything they buy.

And as we recently learned on the BBC's China blog, they're at the center of the modern Chinese surveillance state too.

I know, China right? Well, it's not just China. We have the same thing in the States, but it's not run by the government. It's run by Google. And Facebook. And Apple. Don't get me wrong — I'm not accusing any of these companies of being agents for any particular government. But they have the same information. GooglePay, FacebookPay, ApplePay? Yep, got those. iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Chat? Yep, that's covered. And they are all on your phone, or they are that phone. And, of course, de-platforming is a thing. Which is essentially what WeChat was going to do to the BBC's Stephen McDonell.

Privacy is still important. The problem is that we may not realize it until it's gone.

applcation privacy, mobile app security, mobile apps, privacy, web dev

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