Cup of Squid
~musings and folly~

As Advertised

I want to tell you a story. It’s a story of three laptops assigned to me from work. But it also might be a story you know because you might have been the main character at one point or another, laptop or no laptop.

The first laptop was a Chromebook, which was a whole kind of hell I didn’t realize even existed. It had ChromeOS on it, which “allowed” me to enable Linux development tools, but then promptly froze after it couldn’t connect to the virtual environment.

So I set about exploring what was able to be downloaded on the laptop. The icons for Google Docs and Google Sheets just opened up the Chrome browser. The Play Store allowed me to download apps for tablets, which the laptop explicitly was not - it didn’t even have a touchscreen.

When I looked up ChromeOS uses, I found that it was best used for “watching Netflix” and “surfing the internet.” I experimented a bit and found that I couldn’t even download Firefox, which ostensibly would allow me to do the same things the reviewer said this operating system excelled at.

I guess I should’ve been unsurprised that ChromeOS would thus expect users to be okay with being locked into a strict Google ecosystem, with no way out. It didn’t take any great pains to make itself look like a walled garden, as macOS does, and instead embraced its role as a sterile prison.

So, I asked for a different laptop. They sent me a Geobook from their IT department, which then failed to even boot - getting stuck in the famed bootloop cycle I thought I’d left behind after migrating away from the early Windows operating systems. Since the computer was locked to admins, I couldn’t go about fixing it myself.

It got returned.

The third computer I got was some kind of HP, a little snappier with a touchscreen. It didn’t have great detail - leaving some of the text blurry even with my glasses on - but it turned on. I could download more than Google Chrome. By this point I was three weeks into my job and needed to get some work done.

Then, despite apps not being open, I started getting advertisements. From the operating system, Windows 11. They started clogging up my screen, freezing the computer until I clicked or dismissed them. After years of being out of the mainstream operating systems, with popOS as my daily driver, I was flabbergasted.

How was it okay for me to start getting breaking news on my toolbar every ten minutes from a news site I didn’t even recognize?

The search bar scoured the internet before it thought to look in my files.

Apps that were downloaded by the IT department regularly sent me popups telling me about the benefits of their technological ecosystem.

My work uses Google suite for everything, so Google Chrome is the defacto browser. I hadn’t yet downloaded Firefox, so put on a bunch of adblockers that I normally used…only to find that services like YouTube will tell me that I’m “offline” once they detect them.

It amuses me, in the way that underscores actual concern and not in the humorous sense, that we were told that these kinds of services were “opt-in”. I never consented to any of this - and I don’t think it’s any secret that, like most capitalist practices that reflect rape culture, the creators of these systems were ever going to wait for an enthusiastic yes. They just had to pretend like they were interested in our input and pull the rug out from under us when we’ve gotten too tired to put up a fight about it anymore. We consented through our exhaustion under their dogged insistence that we “don’t know what we’re missing” or that they could “make us feel good”.

I’ve spent time as a woman. I know how that exact kind of behavior goes. It doesn’t even shock me that these systems, created largely by cis white men, reflect the way they would treat a woman if they wished to pursue her against her will.

I’ve since disabled every single “service” that Windows 11 offers within my limited understanding of that operating system. The breaking news has been removed. The search bar has been taken “offline”.

For good measure, out of sheer exasperation, I even de-Googled my phone again and didn’t allow microG to set up its limited version of Google services.

It is frustrating that, in order to work around this implicit consent these services pretend we’ve given them (while fooling no one) that we have to go to great lengths to prevent them from getting to us.

Again, to use the rape analogy, femme folks are told that they have to change how they dress so men don’t go after them. I feel like I’ve taken off my tight shorts and tank top and traded it for a floor length nun’s habit and a veil. If I want to enjoy the summer heat, i.e.: engage with the internet, I’ll have to swelter underneath all my layers of protection until I get too hot to deal with it anymore.

The thing is, what we still haven’t learned with rape culture as a society applies here as well: you can’t change the behavior of the perpetrator by having the victims go to these lengths to protect themselves. The perpetrators also have to understand the flaws in their behavior and what “allows” them to go about this way unchecked.

I don’t have any faith, unfortunately, that those building our computer’s operating systems will “see the light” and understand just how intimately violating it is to have our devices assault us from the moment we turn them on.

Many of us get that in our day-to-day lives. We don’t need our computers telling us how little personal agency we have as well.

See? I told you that you would recognize yourself as the main character. I just wish we could opt out of that role too.