Let's talk about privacy and Mark Zuckerberg--or more to the point, Mark Zuckerberg's privacy.

Aw, to heck with it: Let's just literally go digging through Zuckerberg's trash.

Our guide in this endeavor is Jake Orta, an Air Force veteran in San Francisco who is also "a full-time trash picker," according to a New York Times report, which makes him "part of an underground economy in San Francisco of people who work the sidewalks in front of multimillion-dollar homes, rummaging for things they can sell."

Orta was formerly homeless, but he now lives in a "small, single-window studio apartment," with his rent subsidized by the government, according to the Times. And while he may live lean, but he lives near to some much wealthier people.

Among his regular targets for trash scavenging is a San Francisco house that Zuckerberg bought in 2012 for just a shade under $10 million.

(As you can imagine, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan own several houses, including at least two in the San Francisco Bay area. The Times story includes a completely nondescript photo of the Zuckerberg property, in case you're interested, )

We'll get to the larger, societal point about all of this in a second, but first let's inventory what Orta says he took from the trash and bins outside Zuckerberg's home.

There are a total of 13 items, according to the Times account:

  1. a child's pink bicycle helmet,
  2. a vacuum cleaner, 
  3. a hair dryer, 
  4. a coffee machine,
  5. a pile of clothes,
  6. a Whole Foods paper bag,
  7. some A&W diet root beer cans, 
  8. some cardboard boxes,
  9. a junk mail credit card offer,
  10. the remnants of a chicken dinner, 
  11. a stale baguette,
  12. some Chinese takeout containers, and
  13. a garbage bag containing "just junk," in Orta's words.

Surprise! Tech moguls: they're just like us!

Some of these items came from the Zuckerberg house's trash bins, and some (the bicycle helmet for example) seem to have come from the house across the street. 

Overall, Orta ekes out a subsistence living from scavenging trash--about $300 a week, he said. The Zuckerbergs' trash isn't particularly fruitful, but at other houses while while accompanied by a reporter, he scavenged "a pair of gently used designer jeans, a new black cotton jacket, gray Nike running sneakers and a bicycle pump."

He also says he's found "phones, iPads, three wristwatches" and some marijuana on other recent forays. (He sells almost everything, except for the marijuana, which he smoked.) 

The Times article is positioned as a sort of "two Americas living next to each other" examination -- especially given that Orta's small studio ("filled with trash," as the Times descrbed it) is just three blocks from the Zuckerberg place at issue.

And sure, it's kind of interesting to know what's in Zuckerberg's trash.

As Charlie Wood points out at Business Insider, however, there's an almost artistic element to the idea of somebody making his living by picking through the trash of people like Zuckerberg. 

Because isn't that how Facebook makes money off of all of us?

I suppose most of us just sort of live with these kinds of privacy concerns (even now), perhaps because we think that picking through our digital detritus is probably about as interesting as Zuckerberg's garbage. 

And yes, Zuckerberg has been Mr. Pivot recently, announcing that privacy is going to be a priority at Facebook, and that he thinks the future of the company will be a lot different than what it was in the past.

Maybe that will happen. Maybe some of us will still be using the products. But in the meantime, maybe the experience of literally having his trash exposed will make it a little bit easier for him to understand how everyone else feels.
 

Published on: Apr 10, 2019
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