This film, which I saw at a screening before its general release on Amazon, is very scary but eye-opening and engrossing. At about 78 minutes long, it's a solid investment of your time to learn just how much leverage, control, and influence these two massive platforms have over you.
For all of us, it's tough to admit how much we're slaves to our devices and all these "free services." Privacy and cyber-security advocates have been warning about it for years, and I know I'm not the only one who scoffed and said I knew what I was doing. Really, though, I just didn't know what THEY were doing. "The Creepy Line" picks up from there.
Google started with a great idea -- to build the best search engine. Then they realized how much more money they could make by leveraging that search engine. And leveraging again, and so forth. They've "disrupted" many different businesses right out of existence. But hey! It's FREE!!!
Facebook started as a way to meet girls. A simple way to connect friends and introduce mutual friends and expand your social horizons. But the only way ideas like this make money is by "monetizing eyeballs" and building up a more detailed profile of people to offer to advertisers. MySpace and many others were based on the same idea.
I spent many years in the digital news business. And I can tell you that the holy grail for publishers is selling "behavioral targeting" to their advertisers. It's why you see ads on news sites for those products you were JUST looking at on Amazon moments ago. All of the information Facebook and Google are collecting about you, every bit of it, is so they can add you to their own behavioral target groups that they sell to advertisers. That is what has made the largest fortunes on the planet.
The Creepy Line tells one shocking story of how Facebook experimented on a sample of its users, deliberately filling their newsfeeds with depressing, bad news. They did this just to see what it would do to those users. Would they post that they were depressed? Would they shop for products to make them happier? And, most crucially to Facebook, would they reduce the amount of time they spent on... Facebook? It's dark, cynical stuff. And it was ALL done just to figure out how to sell you to advertisers.
Somewhere along the line, both these companies decided to go down an even scarier, creepier path. Now, they want to influence how you think, who you vote for, what opinions will be placed in front of you. What news they will "up-rank" to show you.
I don't believe in government regulation of private companies, and The Creepy Line doesn't advocate this. I certainly don't want the government infringing on free speech. But Google in particular is so deeply entwined in our lives at every level that I am now conscious of, and deeply resent.
So, my advice is to watch this film. Don't use Google's search engine. Don't use Chrome. Don't sign in to their services. Don't trust them with the details of your digital life, and delete what you can. (To their credit, Google makes this easy, but I'm still not sure if I've really deleted it, or am just being conned into thinking it has been).
Google's power and their arrogance is based on everyone using their search engine, their browser, their email, their phones, their tablets, their apps. They monitor every bit of it. If all of that were still just to show me more relevant ads, I could perhaps get past it. But to see how much more ambitious they are than just that makes me worry. A lot.