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The Office Of Stupid Is Watching YouINTRO

In the current upside-down world in which we live, governments keep telling us that we "enjoy" a "free market" which cannot be made "free" and needs to be "regulated" for "our own good". So, basically, a free, non-free market. Got it.

This kind of astronomic stupidity happens day in and day out every day. However, once in a while the "other" group of bureaucrats who stand vigilant against those evil, evil corporations seem to crave the attention on the media and they begin to gear up for a full frontal assault against whatever is left of common sense. Of course, they don't mind because as opposed to actual corporations they don't have to actually produce anything and so they don't. Or, to be more precise, they steal our money through taxes and manufacture manure. Lots of it. Don't believe us? Gooooood!

GERMAN APPARATCHIKS

Just take a look at the latest round of mindboggling idiocy running rampant in Germany: The Bundeskartellamt or "Federal Cartel Office" is investigating Facebook on "suspicion of having abused its market power by infringing data protection rules" because there is an "initial suspicion that Facebook's conditions of use are in violation of data protection provisions" since "Facebook’s use of unlawful terms and conditions could represent an abusive imposition of unfair conditions on users". Yes. It is that stupid.

Let's see if we can get some insight as to what is going on. For that, we will borrow the statement of the President of the FCO above mentioned, Mr. Andread Mundt.

He said: For advertising-financed Internet services such as Facebook, user data are hugely important

We say: No shit genius! It would seem that companies offering free services are trying to maintain its business by selling and utilizing the data of their customers!!! OMG!!! Quick! Call the police! Oh… wait… the "Stupid Police" is already on the case… nevermind…

He said: it is essential to also examine under the aspect of abuse of market power whether the consumers are sufficiently informed about the type and extent of data collected.

We say: we would like to know how exactly a company can "abuse" market power. Are they perhaps taking a gun to the head of prospective users and threatening them? You! There! Sign on to Facebook or we will blow your head off!... Something tells us nope. That aint it. This may be a difficult conundrum to understand for apparatchiks with… errr… "diminished mental capacity" but it so happens that the use of Facebook is… well... voluntary! That's right dear apparatchiks, if people don't like Facebook's Privacy Policy they may… uh… wedunno… just say NO! However, as people seem not to give a rodent's ass about Facebook's Privacy Policy this tells us that people really don't care about Facebook's Privacy Policy. What a revelation! What an epiphany! And if this is the case, why should the Bundeskartellamt care if they represent "the will of the people"? Well… because they don't… represent the will of the people that is. They are there to represent laws… and regulations… and bureaucratic interpretations… and… cover their collective derrieres by manufacturing excuses to remain in their jobs sucking your taxes. Well… almost. German taxes. And what are these terrible, terrible abuses? Allegedly Facebook is not killing themselves and going over and above the call of duty to outline in painstaking details all the many ways they will merchandise customer's data. Sure. Because Microsoft does it. Or Google. Or Ebay or… or… or… Because all these companies really, really make their equivalent policies clear, and ultra-explicit. Sure. Whatever. Any time now. And who the heck determines what is the meaning of "sufficiently informed"??? Huh??? As this is Germany, the land of the law and Ordnung we would expect something downright objective. Like a minimum number of words or the use of plain German language or the necessity for a consumer's phone line or… or… or… but nope. Nothing. The "sufficiently informed" is whatever the apparatchik du jour determines it means. Sure. Why not. After all they are selling a product in the free market…oh…wait…

And what triggered this cascading idiocy? It would seem that Facebook has been criticized over its privacy practices. And…? nothing that's it. Soo…. Facebook is suspicious of "abusing" their "market position" because it is a "suspect" in "abusing its market position"… of course! Silly us! Because circular arguments make sooooo much sense…. with the added benefit that they don't actually have to prove anything because said arguments are self-provable!!! Nice!

Because as Hamburg's Data Protection Commissioner J. Caspar said "Whoever has power over user data gets market power and vice versa". Aha. Uhu. Let's disassemble this marvel of logical thinking. Soo… whoever has power over user data gets market power and whoever has market power gets power over user data. Hummmm… So, if a company has power over the market (even assuming that this actually makes sense) then they, by definition, have power over user data. Like General Electric or Shell or Walmart or Sinopec Group or Saudi Armaco or Samsung which we all know are among the largest companies in the world which… somehow… don't seem to get "power over user data". Nevermid… don't look at this glaring logical black hole and let's keep analyzing.

How exactly does a company get "power over user data" and what kind of power this may be? If we consider that all that data was given freely to the company then it is clear that all that so-called "power" is not really there because the people can simply deny it! What kind of "power" can anybody have over somebody else if we can simply deny this power? Answer? None whatsoever! The whole point of companies gathering peoples' data is that the data is current. Obsolete the data and it automatically becomes worthless. These companies have "power over data" simply because people keep granting these companies privileges over their personal data! People did and do. The companies have no way whatsoever to compel people to give them data. Yeah… the sneaky bastards offering a free product that is so enticing that people give them their data for free. Yeah… Bastards! How dare they offering a superior product!

And what is this manure about getting "market power" simply one has "power over user data"? For example, Deutsche Telekom is one of the biggest personal data transmitter, gatherer, compiler and so on in Germany. Yet, almost no German people believe that Deutsche Telekom has any power over the marketplace simply because they are full of personal data. Deutsche Telekom has a large market dominance simply because of their outstanding products. Incidentally and before some of you begin to scream bloody murder, this is a public company, it is not; 53.7% of its shares are owned by Institutional Investors and 14.6% by Retail Investors.

The truth is that the few companies which are in the business of selling user's data are fully dependent upon… you guessed it… user data! And the second they stop receiving fresh data they are royally screwed! It is the users that have power over such companies, not the other way around.

APPARATCHIKS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

As if all of this wouldn't be sufficiently ridiculous, it would seem that German apparatchiks are joining forces with the European Commission and competition authorities in other European States. That's right. It is not sufficient to be the bully of the block, they must also join the gangs and… why not… the institutionalized mod. Sure. What the heck! If it is OK to kill, it is OK to overkill.

And what is the so-called rational for these "actions"? Because smaller business find it difficult to compete in those areas. After all, it's not like Skype or WhatsApp or Instagram started from scratch with innovative products. Noseereee. They took over the markets in a giant coup d'état…. Oh… wait…

Look, this is not difficult. If these big corporations have market dominance is simply because they are offering a better product. People choose these corporations, not the other way around!

NO ALTERNATIVE

Of course, the "other" excuse is that users have "no other alternative". Sure. Because we absolutely, positively must use Facebook. Because Linkedin does not exist. Nor e-mail, nor Google+ nor MySpace nor Qzone nor Tagged nor… nor… nor… Of course not! They don't exist. Of course this excuse is preposterous! People join Facebook because they want to join Facebook. They do so because it is popular and it is popular because it provides the people what they want. It is not that people don't have other alternative (after all, the west has not yet became the USSR… any time now) but there are other options. It's just that the other options are not as desirable as Facebook!

TRANSFERENCE

And then we have the pinnacle of stupidity: Users cannot transfer their data! Really? So Facebook locks user data in? So you are not allowed to remove the data? Once you are in Facebook you are not allowed to use any other social network? Really? Wow! And we thought that the KGB was strict!

How much more idiotic can this get? Of-freaking-course that people can do whatever they want with their data. The point is that they don't want to because they are happy with a superior product!!!

LET'S PUNISH SUCCESS

And what happens if the German apparatchiks are successful in this witch hunt? They may fine Facebook up to 10 percent of their annual turnover. That's right. Not profits. Turnover. How much more ridiculous can they get?

A lot.

Because we would like to know where would that money go in the event the German government gets its way. Will the German government provide an alternative product to Facebook? Nope. Will they facilitate data transfer? Nope. Will they do anything to "solve" this issue? Nope. They will do what they always do with this money, this is, waste it.

THE ISSUE

This issue is actually quite simple. There is a written contract between Facebook and every subscriber. It is the screen that we all click-trough without a second of thought and it is typically called something like TOS (Terms-Of-Service) or TOU (Terms-of-Use) or something else. In the case of Facebook it is called "Terms and Policies". Well... we shouldn't do that. By doing that we accepted voluntarily a set of contractual terms. Once we have done so, we are bound by them. Furthermore, these terms describe the relationship between Facebook and us. These terms are it! Or at least they should be. It is for this reason that if we don't like those terms we should...oh... read them first? But no. People at too lazy. They can't be bothered. But if this is the case, whose fault it is? Facebooks' (who is making these terms available before you sign on) our ours for not reading them? Facebook is not forcing you to sign on their system but if you do, you must accept those terms. Of course, nothing is stopping you from trying to negotiate better terms, but on the same token nothing is stopping Facebook from ignoring you. Why is this so? Because we, the potential subscribers, are asking Facebook to allow us to interact with their property, their software, their servers, their bandwidth, their people and so on. Got that? All that stuff is not ours but theirs. If this would not be the case, would you be happy when Facebook employees show at your door and simply take your possessions? Of course not. Why? Because they are yours!

Look, this is simple. You don't like Facebook's Terms and Policies? Just say NO! And the whole thing stops right there.

But no. Not in Germany (and not in most places in the world for that matter), it would seem that those contractual terms between subscribers and Facebook has an Achilles heel called "Government". Of course, we don't have a clue as to where this mysterious defect came from considering that in this contract there is only you and Facebook, but let's continue. The "Government" making use of their "authority" appoints a series of people to "watch" over and modify at will Facebook's contract with you. And that's it! Whether you or Facebook agree is irrelevant. All that matters is that the "Government" has the "authority" to do so. Why? Ahhhh... because they have a "Social Contract" with you (contract that you never signed on nor agreed to... but those are details). The "Government" as your representative (i.e. the organization that does your bidding) has decided that they will interfere with a voluntary agreement between you and Facebook. Do you begin to see the idiocy now?

Allow us to spell it out. You have a voluntary agreement with Facebook. The government claims to represent you and as such they intervene into this contract. But if they do so, this means that they are doing so as your representatives. But as you already agreed to the contract their intervention against the contract goes against your will because, why would you agree to a contract only to have your representative intervene against it? Therefore we must conclude that your representatives are acting against your will... so much for representation.  This is, of course, the most common scenario.  But there is another one.  Let's say that you agreed to the contract and then you changed your mind. Fair enough. You send your representatives to re-negotiate the deal. This is, somehow, mysteriously, your representatives have read your mind and they are acting in your behalf. OK. So then they approach Facebook and ask to re-negotiate the deal, right? Well...no. They approach Facebook and say either Facebook changes the terms of the contract or we will punish Facebook by stealing their money (aka "imposing" fines) and we will do so supported by brute force (i.e. people with guns and badges). And we will do so because we have power over Facebook's properties because.... because... camon people, help us out here.... because.... nevermind...

Mobsters would be proud!

Does this make any sense? At all? Of course not.

Because if this scenario is correct, then Facebook is entitled to do the exact inverse of this. They are entitled to show up at your door, flanked by "private security" personnel armed with guns and IDs and demand that you either agree to new contractual terms or else they will take your PC and TV and empty your bank account. After all, fair is fair.

We have explained this stupidity in the articles Contracts Are The Key To Coexistence and Social Contracts Are A Scam.

CONCLUSION

This so-called "issue" is just another storm in a glass of water produced by people who have never, ever actually served consumers and could not do it even if their lives depend upon that. Because their lives do not depend upon serving consumers but their jobs depend upon serving politicians. Let's be clear. They one has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

Let's recap. Originally nobody cared about monopolies. Then they said "natural" monopolies were OK. Then they said "natural monopolies are OK as long as they don't exercise undue market dominance". And now they are saying: Screw-You!

Fine. But we have a question. Has anybody actually asked Facebook users their opinion? Nope. And once these apparatchiks have finished dismantling all these companies which actually provide valuable services, then what? Are they going to replace these services? Thought so…

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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