Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
When it comes to the topic of privacy in the digital age, there are a number of opinions and attitudes people have. Randall features six of them here in an exaggerated fashion:
- The Philosopher - the intellectual who likes to talk about the topic, often boring those around him who don't think or worry much about privacy.
- The Crypto Nut - the one who goes crazy with security, even for things needing none.
- Since a large percentage of people and companies present in the internet don't have the ability or intention to do strong cryptography, the crypto nut's communication is limited to talking with other crypto nuts - which indicates cryptography as a topic. A real crypto nut will encrypt not just the important stuff because otherwise the attacker (here: NSA) will know which mails contain stuff that was secret enough to warrant encrypting, thus giving them information about whom he's doing secret business with.
- The Conspiracist - well, there's no shortage of these on the Internet, regardless of the topic. Just see below.
- The (data) warehouse mentioned is the Utah Data Center which seems to be of impressive size. The punchline is created by taking the iceberg and warehouse analogies literally.
- The Nihilist - Resigned to the idea that all actions are meaningless (and thus, so is the data those actions generate).
- This type is typically overstrained by the NSA scandal. Since he cannot defend himself against such an opponent (due to a lack of technical capability and political influence), he surrenders and decides to arrange with the problem by ignoring it.
- The Exhibitionist - Assumes people are invading his privacy, and using it to show off.
- This type is predominantly associated with e.g. twitter, but other social networks as well.
- The Sage - Seems to know the difference between the real and the imaginary.. or does he?
- The monolog alludes to a scene in The Matrix in which Cypher arranges with the evil machines to become a traitor.
- The Sage is apparently immediately satisfied when he has food and prosperity. He does not need privacy or other democratic rights as long as he does not individually suffer from their absence.
The title text could be a reference to the general picture of a philosopher being poor (there is not much money paid for thinking about the world as a whole and the meaning of it etc.) and to a degree uncomfortable with the world in its current state. Handing him a burrito would feed him, thus making him more comfortable with the world and removing the need to change it. Or perhaps it simply is a reference to suggest that he enjoys burritos so much that being handed one even while philosophising would stop him in his tracks to eat the burrito.
- Opinions on Internet Privacy
- The Philosopher:
- Megan: "Privacy" is an impractical way to think about data in a digital world so unlike the one in which our soci--
- Ponytail: So bored.
- The Crypto Nut:
- Cueball: My data is safe behind six layers of symmetric and public-key algorithms.
- Friend: What data is it?
- Cueball: Mostly me emailing with people about cryptography.
- The Conspiracist:
- Cueball talks to Megan.
- Cueball: These leaks are just the tip of the iceberg. There's a warehouse in Utah where the NSA has the entire iceberg. I don't know how they got it there.
- The Nihilist:
- Megan: Joke's on them, gathering all this data on me as if anything I do means anything.
- The Exhibitionist:
- Cueball is watching a surveillance console, Officer Ponytail stands behind him.
- Console: Mmmm, I sure hope the NSA isn't watching me bite into these juicy strawberries!! Oops, I dripped some on my shirt! Better take it off. Google, are you there? Google, this lotion feels soooo good.
- Cueball: Um.
- The Sage:
- Beret Guy and Cueball sitting at a table.
- Beret Guy: I don't know or care what data anyone has about me. Data is imaginary. This burrito is real.
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This comic could be meant to satirize those who trivialize the opinions of privacy advocates. I doubt many reading this comic would assume this is either a fair or exhaustive list of opinions on internet privacy as it is highly unlikely that the reader him/herself would hold any of these opinions. 00:05, 1 October 2013 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Sometimes I think all my burritos are imaginary. Nathkingcole (talk) 11:55, 25 September 2013 (UTC)Nat.
- The burrito isn't, but Chipotle's promises of all natural ingredients in their food is. They do that just to make a quick buck off the health-conscious crowd. Lying burrito! --JayRulesXKCD (talk) 15:44, 27 September 2016 (UTC)
This may be pointless, but Kudos to 188.8.131.52's edit. Saibot84 (talk) 13:13, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- This may be offensive, but Redeemer's edit was both excellent and necessary. 184.108.40.206 13:26, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- I wouldn't call it offensive (outside the language); it's simply opinionated. Thanks Saibot84. 220.127.116.11 13:37, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- Fail on both counts, from me (for Redeemer's contribution), as neither excellent nor necessary. Only in the light of that does 63.etc's edit (who has just ninjaed me with an edit conflict... hi there!) actually make any sort of sense. But what do I know? I'm just an IP, and you can probably find that I'm not even in the US, from that...
- Redeemer's meta-analysis of Randall, even if false, was still an exemplary display of critical thinking that I've found to be surprisingly lacking with XKCD fans. If Randall is anything like the person I think he is, he would appreciate such an alternative perspective. Additionally, it was an absolutely necessary defense against a straw man-like simplification of an all too legitimate concern for privacy rights. I will agree that Redeemer's edit would have been more appropriate here as a Discussion item rather than an edit to the Explanation, but this differing viewpoint should still be heard. 18.104.22.168 15:26, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
- Can we just have a proper explanation, instead, please? Let's say something like: there's those that overthink the situation, those that over-do it, some overestimate the problem, some overestimate other problems, some enjoy the idea too much and some just enjoy their food more. Eh? Any good for ya? I'm sure it can be tweaked, to taste. 22.214.171.124 13:41, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- Done. Or at least a start. -boB (talk) 14:04, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
I have an opinion, but I'm keeping it private for now. -boB (talk) 13:24, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
One mention of the NSA, one mention of Google. I'm not sure how Randall's politics are relevant, or how he's excusing privacy concerns, and the "explanation" says a lot about the interpretation and US-centric perspective of the poster without adding to the comic. Unless it was a deliberate parody of the conspiracy panel, not appropriate, dude. (And I'm a Brit - I definitely didn't vote for any political party in the states. But hello, Echelon.) Fluppeteer (talk) 13:37, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- The comment was so off the wall I think it pretty much had to be parody, in keeping with panel 3. -boB (talk) 14:04, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
I wonder why some Americans consider that world-wide issues like on-line privacy have to be related only to U.S. politicians. 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I'm pretty sure the explanation of the Nihilist isn't right. In my opinion Randall jokes that if all of your actions are meaningless (the nihilistic way of thought) then the same applies to all your data. 188.8.131.52 14:51, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks to whoever classed this place up by deleting that vitriol. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I'm a fan, but I'm disappointed. Don't tell me I didn't "get it" though. I "got it" very well. I love XKCD very much, but not today. I would like to thank Saibot84 and 220.127.116.11 for their heartwarming support. A Reddit post about the edit can be found here: My protest against XKCD's underhanded defense of the NSA -- Yours truly, Redeemer 18.104.22.168 16:37, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- I'm genuinely concerned about internet security issues, and I'm entirely sympathetic to your perspective, Redeemer. But, whatever Randall's background or motivation, this comic stands alone in poking fun at extreme positions on the subject. I don't believe it either trivialises the argument or makes a reasoned statement about an acceptable position - none of the panels show a "normal" perspective. Whether or not Randall intended it to be, there are many more sources of privacy concerns world-wide than the NSA, and many reasons to hold an opinion on NSA network analysis other than support for a political party (which to me rarely means support for every position that they hold). Let's stick to explaining the comic, not meta-analyzing Randall's motivations for posting it. This is not the place, no matter how your perspective may colour your interpretation of the message behind the comic. Fluppeteer (talk)
- TL;DR, but the current NSA incidents are a source for Randall's ideas here. It should be mentioned. Incomplete done tag by me.--Dgbrt (talk) 22:52, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- Too impatient, can't be qualified to comment. Randall mentions the NSA in one panel. The issue isn't whether the NSA is a concern, it's that the NSA is not the only source of internet privacy concerns or media scares; if not mentioning it "excuses" the NSA/current US Government, singling it out "excuses" other organizations (other governments and surveillance bodies, Google, Facebook, network operators...) - and Randall himself mentions Google. Don't assume this is just about the NSA. Even if that was Randall's inspiration, it's not the only context for the comic. There have been repeated incidents regarding GCHQ, for example.Fluppeteer (talk)
- You must have some very strict guidelines for TL;DR. It's just a paragraph! Orazor (talk) 05:37, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
- I also can claim "web scraping, network administration and security [as] my professional area of expertise" (only currently on personal time, hence this pseudo-anonymous IP, which I know wouldn't fool the NSA), but I think you just don't get it, Redeemer. Nor do some of your Reddit contributors. Not wanting to reddit (by a name I'd jump into there with, that is), I won't even attempt to disabuse you of your opinion, however. But you do not vandalise key areas of wikis with such personal venom. Bad show for doing so, and stick to your blogs. Anyway, for myself: Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2, line 358, second half. 22.214.171.124 23:07, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- "These foils have all a length"?126.96.36.199 23:22, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
- "The rest is silence." according to Shakespeare-navigators.com. Much as I'd love to be educated enough to know that by heart.Fluppeteer (talk)
Is it just me, or is it actually Danish instead of Megan in the Nihilist panel? The hair looks too long to be Megan's. Sciepsilon (talk) 00:09, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
I have to disagree with "Since a large percentage of people and companies present in the internet don't have the ability or intention to do strong cryptography". Strong encryption is extremely available to 100% of people and companies. It is public and free to use. Most significant companies use VPN's and encrypted hard drives. It is just untrue to suggest that strong cryptography is not available to anyone. 188.8.131.52 06:57, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
- That is the difference between availability and ability. While the necessary software is freely available, people don't understand how to use it (no ability), even don't want to learn how to use it (no intention).
- Also in "strong cryptography" I would require not only algorithms to be strong but also authentication schemes. The current SSL system uses Certificate Authorities, which are broken by design, thus not "strong" in the sense I was meaning it.
- While good companies using VPNs and encrypted hard drives is a good ideal, 90% of the companies do without them to save the money involved (performant hardware + setting up). Additionally they do not use encryption when communicating with others (e.g. their customers). Think of all the websites that cannot be accessed with HTTPS (including this one). -- Xorg (talk) 10:14, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
- Strong encryption in form of VPN is available to everyone and I believe lot of companies are using it. Also HTTPS is used relatively often, although many sites lack it, only use it for most important areas or only for administration for performance reasons. Thats all. Most importantly, no way of encrypting email is simple enough to be actually used by public, and I seriously doubt that majority of instant messaging is point-to-point encrypted (I know for sure Skype chat aren't - they may be encrypted on wire but keys are available to their servers).
- Note that while centralised solution of Certificate Authorities is less secure that decentralized ones, you can still get usable security in SSL ... unless you need it for HTTPS. The fact that NO HTTPS page is signed by multiple authorities is the real problem. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:56, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
At the present moment, what exactly is incomplete in this explanation? When Dgbrt added the incomplete tag, it was because "it should be mentioned that the NSA incidents are a source for Randall's ideas here", however the very first line of the explanation reads "Randall parodies some of the reactions to Edward Snowden's revelations of widespread intrusive surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency" which pretty much covers it. Furthermore, that line was already in place when the incomplete tag was added. Am I missing something? 184.108.40.206 19:59, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
- Wait, what? That'll teach me to read the comments page rather than checking changes to the explanation. Randall's comic is about reactions to *all* internet privacy concerns. It explicitly mentions Google. Why is everybody assuming that the NSA is the only source of issues here? Sure, there have been recent revelations about the NSA. And GCHQ (indeed, by Snowden). And Google. And Facebook. And every country introducing mandatory network filters. And my employers (and anyone else's with a firewall data sniffer). And quite probably a lot more I don't know about. Can we please stop putting words in Randall's mouth and having a blinkered focus on the NSA as though it's the only source of problems when the comic itself mentions more concerns than that. I didn't think it was my place to remove the incomplete tag, but I now support the assertion that it's inaccurate, rather than incomplete. (Sorry; I was annoyed enough to register here in order to try to balance this bias! Perhaps someone with more seniority can paraphrase?) Fluppeteer (talk) 21:52, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
- NSA is not only source of issues, but it's definitely the most currently debated one. Even mentioned companies are currently debated in context of their collaboration with NSA. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:56, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
- The NSA scandal is not the most topical example. Ed Snowden's leaks about the NSA and GCHQ (including GCHQ spying on G20 Summit attendees) happened primarily in May, four months ago. The UK government has been proposing opt-out traffic inspection for porn filtering since July; one of the Australian political parties has made a similar proposal this month. The current Miss Teen USA was the subject of a recent privacy scandal, though webcam related rather than about data inspection. A media watchdog report about Google's expectation of privacy in gmail hit the news in August. Facebook drew criticism for security issues in August, and the inability to manage sex hate issues at the end of May. The NSA relationship with Google, Facebook et al. as part of PRISM is certainly an issue, but not the only, and arguably not greatest, source of concern for many about those companies and other organizations. The Snowden case is, in many places, old news, and - while it may have been reported solely in the context of the NSA in the US, it certainly hasn't been in the UK (other than regarding the issues of his asylum). Don't get me wrong - I'm happy to call out the NSA, and it's not like I avoid Google et al. I just believe that it's blinkered to attribute the comic solely either to the Snowden case in general or to the NSA in particular. I'd be happy with "Randall parodies some extreme reactions to internet security concerns, such as those raised by Edward Snowden's revelations about widespread intrusive surveillance by the NSA and other agencies." Is that reasonable? Fluppeteer (talk) 18:57, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
- O.o I'm not sure I entirely agree with the analysis about what Randall wants us to believe (I'm called a "nut" about a number of things without taking offence at any of them, for example), but I'll admit that the current version removes my objection that the explanation was overly-biased in exclusively referring to the NSA. So thank you, Davidy22 (edit war aside), and I'll pick my battles. Fluppeteer (talk) 13:19, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
- I didn't write that analysis, I just stepped in when another user was autoreverting it for being "too long." It is a pretty good bit of text though. Davidy²²[talk] 14:44, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
- Whoops. Thank you *and* 220.127.116.11. Fluppeteer (talk) 18:44, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
I can't be the only xkcd reader that's driven crazy by the fact that "data" is used as a singular throughout this, can I? I mean, data isn't imaginary, data are imaginary!! 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Oh dear. I'll go and get my pedantry circuits checked - I should have noticed that. See how discussing politics and current(ish) affairs contributes to my mental decay? Fluppeteer (talk) 18:44, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
- Unless you talk about Lieutenant Commander Data, and I think he would be offended if you call him imaginary. -- Hkmaly (talk) 08:55, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
Can someone photoshop this: ⋈ onto the conspiracist's neck? thanks, 22.214.171.124 04:18, 21 November 2013 (UTC)
I tend to over-analyze stuff and I have the opinion that this amount of explanation should exist about everything. However, as a user (even though I dislike that word), that's too much text. There should be a more succinct explanation, and the rest of it hidden somewhere but available by a link, button, tab, etc. 126.96.36.199 01:15, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
- Please remove bias
Can somebody please rewrite the last section which is extremely biased against the comic, seeming to attack the ideas presented and suggesting that Randall doesn't care at all about civil rights. It violates the idea of a neutral explanation and is seen to be pushing the writers point of view. This bias is especially evident to a person who disagrees with this point of view (because, seriously, who cares if the govt. knows about your dinner plans or your big break up or even your love of perfectly legal porn. They don't care. If you do think that they're interested in that, then you are vastly overestimating your importance). Can somebody who is better at writing please rewrite that section with a more neutral (or at least ballanced) tone? --Imamadmad 20:09, 14 January 2015 (UTC)