How Nimses used Pewdiepie to promote its privacy dystopia


Okay let’s pause it right there.
Let’s talk about Nimses recently promoted
by Pewdiepie without falling into the pit
of conspiracy theories and without personally
attacking Felix.
What is Nimses?
Nimses would have you believe it’s an American
company.
But make no mistake about it.
It’s a Ukrainian social media platform that
is trying to penetrate Western markets.
Nimses is incorporated in Delaware, which
is ranked among the best and most convenient
states to incorporate your company in the
US if you are a foreign entity.
Nimses’ strategy to win against the dominance
of the Facebook/Instagram empire is trying
to lure users in by offering them a virtual
currency for their time spent on the platform.
This sounds like a novel idea, even to Felix.
But it is not.
Minds.com, which is a pro-free speech open
source social network, also rewards its users
with points for every activity on the platform.
Minds is also privacy focused, which means
they are not deploying trackers to mine your
personal and location data to monetize the
hell out of your existence.
Nimses, on the other hand, presents itself
as a geolocation app and it is impossible
to use it without broadcasting your live location
feed to the company’s servers at all times.
Their privacy policy is quite honest about
it:
IF YOU DO NOT WANT NIMSES TO COLLECT AND TO
PROCESS YOUR DATA AT ALL, PLEASE DO NOT USE
THE SERVICES.
Unlike Minds, Nimses relies on 49 cookies
to deliver its service, most of them purposed
for analytics and targeted advertising.
So how does Nimses plan to succeed in the
world of privacy invasive and speech controlling
social media?
By respecting your digital rights and speech?
No.
By paying you for using it.
At least virtually.
The concept of offering virtual monetary incentives
to grow one’s user base in exchange for
their private information is a logical evolution
from the advertiser-centered Web 2.0.
The market for human attention is oversaturated.
People are increasingly becoming aware that
they are paying for a free service with their
data.
But if you give some of that ad-generated
money back to the users without whom you’d
have no data to monetize, you might create
an illusion that people are getting a better
deal on your network than on Facebook.
So how is Nimses going to do this?
Nimses generates one nim every minute of your
life on the platform.
This virtual currency is centrally controlled
by the company and its value doesn’t seem
to be backed by anything other than what the
company currently says.
With traditional cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin
or Litecoin, you are in control of your coins,
the network stands on the consensus of all
its stakeholders, and the value is backed
by the market.
There is no central authority in control of
the Bitcoin network nor the value of bitcoin
itself.
It’s easy to create your own virtual coin.
The harder part is to persuade people of its
value.
That is what caused the cryptocurrency bubble
burst last year that Bitcoin is still recovering
from.
Too many people created their own coins to
fund their app development projects or shady
schemes but ultimately failed to back the
value of their own creations.
Nimses promises to create an ecosystem of
goods and services that you could spend your
nims on.
The more people sign up for Nimses, the more
people could potentially use nims and hence,
the demand would raise the value of nimcoin.
But there’s a catch.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are valuable
because they are scarce.
There is a maximum of 21M possible bitcoins
in circulation and there will never be a single
satoshi more.
Bitcoins are not generated but rather mined
by solving complex algorithmic functions.
With nims however, there doesn’t seem to
be a cap.
As more nimcoins are generated with time and
as the number of users increases, the amount
of nims in circulation will also increase.
And thus Nims will never be scarce.
If Pewdiepie’s wish came true, then your
only opportunity cost of spending your nims
is time.
The more time passes, the less value your
nims have because in the process of endless
money generation time is on the side of inflation.
If you are not familiar with the concept of
virtual currencies, imagine if the US Federal
Reserve began printing $1 for each American
every minute of their life.
Not just giving them $1, but actually printing
a new note each minute for each American citizen.
For a while, it would seem everyone has more
money.
So they would go spend it on their favorite
goods and services.
Which would increase a demand for those products
so much their suppliers would run out of stock
and would have to increase prices.
Which means your same $1 banknote would now
buy less stuff.
But the Fed would still print you more notes,
so that would make up for the difference.
Until another price increase happens.
And then you’d need even more dollars to
buy even less stuff.
Until you realize the green papers you are
holding in your hand have no value because
they are not limited by scarcity.
They are abundant.
And there is nothing you can do because the
Fed just keeps printing more.
A sustainable concept for Nimses instead of
automatically rewarding each user with a time-generated
coin would be to use a computational power
of their users’ devices to mine nims, of
which there would be a capped amount.
Only then would demand for Nims legitimately
grow their value and users could safely use
this currency for real purchases.
But there is no game in that.Mining cryptocurrency
wouldn’t necessarily incentivize spending
more time on the platform.
But Nimses needs your activity.
Because they need your data.
That’s how they make money.
Rewarding users with a virtual currency that
may or may not have any value whatsoever is
the main selling point of Nimses.
It doesn’t seem the company would change
anything substantial about this.
And other than that, Nimses has nothing special
to offer, because it’s your average run-of-the-mill
privacy invasive, speech policing, centrally
controlled social media app.
Felix got very defensive when his 9yo army
criticized his sponsorship choice on his subreddit.
I would actually agree with this
advice if it was delivered in a less condescending
way.
It’s like we are not allowed to criticize
privacy invasive design decisions.
In the age of digital surveillance, do we
really need more privacy invasive social media
platforms?
Or should we be more concerned with finally
securing the inherently insecure Internet
that the modern world so fundamentally relies
on?
There is a reason advertisers are so hungry
for your data.
It works.
Data-driven targeted advertising is extremely
efficient at squeezing more money from you.
Whether it’s a targeted manipulation from
political campaigns, or algorithmically raising
prices for products that you need and lowering
them for those that you don’t, marketers
are hungry to know you personal data.
And in this arena, Nimses is a privacy nightmare.
It was very unfortunate when Felix dismissed
all criticism of the Nimses app as spreading
misinformation.
Especially when somebody on Pewdiepiesubmissions
posted a decompiled APK of the app revealing
some its intrusive permissions.
We’ll get to that in a minute.
Can Nimses track you even after you uninstall
it?
Yes, it can.
Not as an app.
But as a company.
They can use your personally identifiable
information and your device information to
continue tracking you through their outside
trackers and third parties.
This practice is known as shadow-profiling
and Facebook has been doing the same for ages.
It’s a practice deserving all the backlash
and criticism.
Here is a list of permissions posted on the
subreddit thread.
Felix’s justification is that everyone does
it so it must be okay.
It’s your ordinary social media app and
that’s how it goes so you deal with it.
But that’s exactly the whole point.
Nimses is like Facebook on steroids.
Among many permissions that Felix so condescendingly
dismissed as totally harmless, are access
to your camera, microphone, your location
through all possible means – GPS, WiFi and
cellular network, and your contacts.
Now I agree that most law abiding citizens
should not worry too much about the app’s
access to your camera or microphone, unless
you are politically active or a journalist.
However, real time access to your precise
location in all three dimensions alongside
access to your phonebook should give everyone
a pause.
Nimses is not shy about using this information
to study your behavior and build profiles
from the collected data.
Its privacy policy even lays out this example:
if a user frequently attends a dental clinic,
Nimses can make some conclusions about the
health of the user and the user can see some
promotional offers of dental clinics.
This information is not going be kept secret.
Nimses reserves the right to share your data
with third parties, including advertisers.
Although they claim this data is only aggregated
and cannot be used to identify a particular
person.
Obviously, Nimses is never going to disclose
how exactly they are protecting individual
data before transferring it.
Even if it is anonymized, which in itself
is a vaguely understood and inefficient practice,
any advertiser can use the data and match
it with their database to easily re-identify
particular individuals.
How is your health record going to impact
the price of your private health insurance?
Or the interest on your savings account?
Nimses also has a right to sell your private
data to whomever acquires their company, or
whoever Nimses merges with.
The highest bidder can come from anywhere
in the world.
Are you comfortable with giving a precise
history of all the locations you ever visited
with Nimses installed on your phone to anyone
who is willing to buy it?
Selling access to all your contacts and friends
is the root problem behind the Cambridge Analytica
scandal with Facebook.
87 million users were affected by having their
data used for a political campaign without
their knowledge or consent when only a few
hundred thousand people actually downloaded
the app because the same policy used to be
a practice at Facebook.
The fact that Felix presents protecting your
own privacy as something ancient or completely
unreasonable, is deeply troubling.
Of course privacy matters.
Not for its own sake.
But for the damage absence of privacy could
cause you if your personal information fell
into the hands of people with an interest
against you.
How damaging would it be if somebody uploaded
a livestream of Pewdiepie’s day in life
without his knowledge or consent?
How would the media react to how Felix lives
his life, what he said, places he’s been
to and people he met?
At a time when we start realizing social media
are probably doing more harm than good to
our society, is it really so innocent to promote
yet another social media platform that is
reinforcing the same broken practices?
None of this is to criticize Pewdiepie’s
personality, nor is it to say Felix is a worse
person because he promoted a privacy invasive
social media app.
But I feel like the position of protecting
your own privacy and holding platforms accountable
for bad data practices needs be defended.
I am not too worried about privacy.
I am more worried about the fact that knowledge
is power.
I don’t like the idea of someone having
that power over me.
And that’s why I protect my privacy.

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