I was about to take my irrevocably last sip of whiskey when someone knocked at the door. A dame’s head appeared. She was very blonde. And very desparate.
“Mr. Farlow? Philip Farlow, private eye?”
“What does it say on the door?”
“Philip Farlow, private eye.”
“Doors don’t lie”, I said and pointed at the only free chair in my office. I put the empty whiskey bottle in the drawer filled by a dozen or so others. “How can I help you?”
She dried her eyes with a once white handkerchief. “Someone is stealing my Facebook data!”
“Well, data theft isn’t exactly my…”
“This should cover your expenses”, she said and shoved a pack of nice green bills in my direction.
With a practiced gesture, I swiped the pack into the drawer. The empties rattled.
“I’ll ask around”, I said. “But I can’t promise anything, Miss…?”
“…Data-Lake. Veronica Data-Lake. But please call me Veronica.”
“Hi, Eddie, what’s up?” I put a foot up on Eddie’s stool.
“Hi, Phil. Have you heard about this Facebook affair?”
This is why Eddie Snowden was my favorite shoeshine boy: He knew every whistleblower in all of Los Angeles, and was always well-informed.
“What’s the word in the street about that, Eddie?”
“They say there’s these strange guys in Cambridge, over in England.” Eddie spit on his rag and got started. “In some shady ways, they got the personal data of a real huge number of Facebook users. My source at Facebook says they bought data from an app that several hundred thousand users had handed their data over to for a few bucks, but without them knowing, the data of their ‘friends’ were siphoned off, too. So in total…” Eddie spit on his cloth once more. “…that amounted to fifty million people. And with their data, those Cambridge guys claim to have influenced our Presidential election.”
“Wait what, Truman’s election was manipulated?”
“At least you can have a much better targeted propaganda that way. But the real scandal…” Eddie swiped his cloth a lot harder than usual. “…is that Facebook is gathering this incredible amount of data without caring about privacy at all. Even as they heard about that Cambridge affair, they didn’t lift a finger to prevent data abuse. Guys that make money by collecting and selling detailed records of private lives were once plainly described as ‘surveillance companies’.” I could hear him think: “Or private eyes.” He gave me a critical look. “Their rebranding as ‘social media’ is the most successful deception since the Department of War became the Department of Defense.”
I remembered: That was last year. Smart move.
“Thanks, Eddie.” I stuffed a dollar bill in his shirt pocket. “Guess I’ll go and have a look at this Facebook.”
“Be careful, Phil. Those guys at Hacker Way are hoarding data from half the world, but they don’t like it when someone pokes around in their business.”
I was about to pour my irrevocably last sip of whiskey while holding a pack of ice against my black eye with my other hand when there was a knock at the door.
“Come on in, Miss Data-Lake!”
“Mr. Farlow, what happened to your eye?”
“The Facebook bouncer thought it was funny to slam a book in my face before kicking me out onto the street. Those guys aren’t very social, you know.”
She dabbed my bloody brow with her handkerchief. She looked very distressed. And very blonde.
“Have you been able to find out something nevertheless?”
“Your data’s gone, sorry, and you won’t ever see it again.”
“Oh my God, what am I supposed to do?!”
I handed her my only handkerchief not yet smeared with blood.
“I think you only have three options.”
“First you could simply leave Facebook, …” I emptied the glass of whiskey in one gulp, then refilled it. “…but then old habits die hard. Also, this would only be helpful if all your friends left Facebook, too, or else they could continue to track you via their posts.”
“You could trust that the government will intervene and restore some order. But my experience after thirty years as a private eye in L.A. is: One shouldn’t have very high hopes when it comes to government efficiency.”
“And the third option?”
“Do as I do: Don’t have any friends.”
“Oh great! So I obviously wasted my money. Good-bye, Mr. Farlow!” The door slammed shut, making the frosted glass clatter.
I rotated the whiskey glass in the light of the evening sun, admiring its golden color with my one good eye. “That’s the beautiful thing about my third option”, I said to myself. “Works every time.”
*** The End. ***