Cuban Computer Users: We Agree (But Do Not Accept the Terms of the Contract)

Vicente Morin Aguado

Photo: Juan Suarez
Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban media continue to warn us of the dangers of the Internet (both real and imagined). The latest show to join this offensive is Pasaje a lo desconocido (“Journey to the Unknown”). The general impression one gets, as always, is that the reality beyond our borders is an authentic disaster and that ours is the best of possible worlds.

I will quote the show’s excellent host, journalist Reynaldo Taladrid, and invite you to “draw your own conclusions.” For the time being, I will say only that I agree with the premise but that I do not accept the terms of the contract derived from it.

At the beginning of the show, they try to convince us that Google, Facebook and LinkedIn (to name the most popular networks) constitute a dangerous assault on our privacy and almost suggest we unplug ourselves from these online instruments. The examples used are serious cases illustrating the discontent of people in highly developed countries, chiefly the United States.

I applaud the way in which US citizens watch over their right to privacy – it demonstrates the unshakable spirit of individuality that prevails in that great, democratic nation, a spirit which has nothing to do with demagogic individualism. What I find counterproductive is trying to apply such criteria to Cubans, who live in a very different society.

When a person’s main concern on waking up is being able to have at least a glass of milk for breakfast, they are not likely to care about any assault on their privacy over Facebook, a network which, for the most part, is totally beyond their reach (for reasons we know too well).

The user agreements that computer programs present us with are another issue. The many paragraphs of legal jargon are often ignored by the user, who generally accepts the contract without reading it. Not many users ever read these texts, in Cuba or abroad. The reason is fairly obvious, but the details involved are different in the case of my country.

First of all, lacking an Internet connection, most of my compatriots install pirated software in their computers. They therefore care nothing about the legal terms of a user agreement, as they are breaking the law from the word go. Despite that, in much the same way things work on our island, one has to put up one’s hand in a show of agreement. The same thing holds for any software one wants to install – one has to accept its terms, there is no other option.

When a person’s main concern on waking up is being able to have at least a glass of milk for breakfast, they are not likely to care about any assault on their privacy over Facebook, a network which, for the most part, is totally beyond their reach.
When a person’s main concern on waking up is being able to have at least a glass of milk for breakfast, they are not likely to care about any assault on their privacy over Facebook, a network which, for the most part, is totally beyond their reach.

There’s another detail to bear in mind. Cuba also produces software and applies norms that are similar to the international standard in this connection: long texts that include very specific restrictions related to freedom of expression and the exchange of information. That said, we are something of a special case in the world of computing as well (and attempts at comparing our reality to that of other nations aren’t exactly fruitful).

Those who use Facebook at least consciously decide to give other people access to a part of their lives. As President Obama, a recognized social network expert, rightly said, people have to be careful about what they write on Facebook.

Cubans must first have the option of being careful or not before any of this can have any meaning for them. First things first, as English-speakers wisely say. I didn’t like last Sunday’s Pasaje a lo desconocido. Though Taladrid is a talented journalist, you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.

In Havana, I have no other alternative than to accept the agreement I am given when I install a piece of software. As a self-respecting Cuban, however, I reserve the right not to accept the terms of contract I am forced to live under.
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Vicente Morín Aguado: morfamily@correodecuba.cu


5 thoughts on “Cuban Computer Users: We Agree (But Do Not Accept the Terms of the Contract)

  • The receivers would need to be within 30 meters of the passport. Then they would relay the data to a satellite, or anywhere else via the internet. But that’s very different from saying the passport can be tracked from a satellite, which implies that the RFID signal from a passport can be detected from an orbiting satellite. It cannot. This is a technical point, but it is important not to get carried away.

    Note: you can block the RFID signal by wrapping your passport in aluminum foil.

  • In covert ops multiple receivers can transmit to a satellite and pretty much locate the chipped passport. Though chances are the person will be long gone by then. Though this stealth technology is rapidly evolving. And intercepting cell phone transmissions and locating by satellite is what caught Bin Laden… Though at any time all of your information and banking abilities can be disabled at a moments notice. Yes we are private and no doubt much more private than in Cuba. Till need be…

  • It is not possible to track the RFID in a passport from a satellite. The normal range for reading the RFID passport is 10 cm. Under special circumstances highly sensitive receivers can read the chip at 10 meters. The power of the radiated signal from an RFID chip falls as a cube of the distance. At the distance of a satellite in orbit, the signal from a chip would be less than a billionth or a billionth of a watt. Not detectable.

    Yes, there is privacy in a democracy. That the government has the technical or legal ability to invade certain aspects of your privacy does not mean that the government is always doing so for everybody at all times. And there remains much about our lives which the government cannot invade. There are some limits to privacy, but that does no mean there is no privacy.

    This is in contrast to Cuba, where the neighbourhood CDR maintains a very close watch on everybody in the neighbourhood or apartment building, and the police hold records of on every citizen’s school and employment history. There are very few limits to privacy in Cuba.

  • Almost everybody in the civilized world knows who the NSA is… Yup that is real USA privacy… All of these search engines collect data as to what sites we visit. And then they sell this information to the highest bidders. Facebook has the rights to any photo that I post and my posts and messages are all logged… And In Canada it is a criminal offence not to fill out the census form. My personal information is all over the place. And even worse shared with the USA… I have had to obtain security clearances for my old job… and I worked there for over 30 years. Do you not think that they did a search on me??? There has been a RFID chips in US passports for years. It is possible to track that passport by satellite, And now Canadian Passports also have these chips. Your bank account cards, freedom of travel, and your life can be shut down in seconds… There is no privacy even in a democracy… Dream on…

  • Privacy is a word that has significance in a democracy and
    so people fight for it.

    Privacy is a word without meaning in a communist society because the communist party knows everything about you, so people don’t even know privacy
    is important for them. Who has ever lived in a communist country and heard anything about privacy.

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