picture of me, Brian Douglas

Brian Douglas


An Irish software engineer. Focused on Javascript and the web platform.

A 'Doggie Movie'

In recent weeks online privacy has been a hot topic. I say this in relation to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

This breach of privacy has lead many people to question their online presence and the use of the personal data gathered from it. I had managed to avoid this, or so I thought. I’m one of these people who doesn’t have social media. I don’t have an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site… as far as I’m aware **cough** shadow Brian **cough**. So the recent headlines haven’t really made me feel uncomfortable or worry about my data. Untill I recieved a menacingly light hearted notification this evening, see image below.

A picture of the aforementioned 'light hearted notification'

Now let me give some background. I have a white pug. I’ve had him for 4 years, he’s my dog. I know this, my family know this, my friends know this, oh and the Google hive mind also knows this.

That notification, with an emoji of a smiling ‘doggie’, sent shivers down my spine. It was only a slide show of images of my dog, cute right?

However innocent that may seem, it informed me that Google know’s way more about my life than I ever expected. It informed me that Google crawls through the photos on my phone. It takes those images and runs them through some sort of program to determine the content.

I didn’t knowingly ask or allow Google to make that slideshow. I acknowledge there is probably some legal clause I toggled to allow it when creating my account. But this isn’t what I wanted when I signed up for a gmail account a few years ago.

The reason I got rid of social media was partly to do with escaping the ‘feed’ of timeline bullshit, but partly also to do with privacy concerns. I never thought that having a gmail account and using an Android phone would put me at risk to information harvesting. I thought it was evil third party apps that did that. I thought I was just taking photos of my dog. I was wrong.

What I am actually doing by using Google’s services on an Android phone is sending Google information which it can process. I will never know the full extent that that information will be used for. What I do know for sure is that I am a commodity. By continuing to use an Android phone and Google’s services I continue to have value as a commodity. Just as sure as I will never know the full extent of the use of my data, I will never know the full extent of my value as a commodity.

What a somber thought, and it all started with a notication for a cute ‘doggie movie’.