The modern era is increasingly characterized by the massive amounts of information generated by people’s commercial and social interactions, and the way that companies and governments utilize this data to target and surveil their customers and citizens. As data sets swell larger, a debate between the pleasure of convenience and the importance of individual privacy grows louder. Global Facebook users last week watched CEO Mark Zuckerberg defend his company on Capitol Hill following revelations that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested data from millions of unknowing Facebook users. Meanwhile, Chinese netizens grapple with their own tech giants’ massive data gathering through products such as Tencent’s ubiquitous WeChat platform and Alibaba’s mobile payment services, widely seen as leapfrogging Western alternatives in terms of daily convenience. Both companies have used this information to fuel their own social credit pilots alongside a gradually emerging and widely misunderstood national system while also playing key parts in the government’s broader information surveillance plans.
On a recent episode of Bao Zou Big News Events (暴走大事件), the “rage comic“-inspired Chinese internet variety show offered a sketch inviting users to further ponder convenience gained in exchange for individual privacy in the era of big data. CDT has translated and subtitled the sketch: