Is Facebook a utility? and what are the alternatives?

A contribution by Venessa Miemis:

I’ve been reading through danah boyd’s recent posts, Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated and Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant) and all the other posts out there about Facebook and this privacy issue – and would like to add my voice to the mix. Everything seems to be coming to a head, and I haven’t seen anyone really tackle the emotional aspects of what’s going on, so I’d like to take a crack at it. Everyone is up at arms and pissed, but do we know why? What’s the big deal with privacy? What is privacy? What are we really talking about here? My take: When conversations get commodified, we are lost. Tell me, besides being physically intimate with another human, what is more sacred than the space where you share yourself and your life with others? Whether this be a conversation, sending a photo of what you’re doing, a text message, or any other form of communicating information about the way you feel or the things you think – what else is there? This is us being human. In my opinion, people are not so much upset that Facebook is making this sharing of ourselves more transparent, it’s that this sharing of ourselves is being commodified, and people are making money off of it. For me, this is bullshit. If I can’t have a conversation with you without someone invading it and trying to sell me something, I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. How much closer do you want to come to my soul, and then try to put up an advertisement next to it??? For me, THIS is the big privacy issue. Putting ourselves out there is not a bad thing. Someone profiting off of it IS. This is why the open source movement is about to absolutely explode, this is why a project like diaspora has raised almost $200k in less than a month on Kickstarter, why people are looking at open protocols like OAuth and open source tools like Mahout and Hadoop, why the concept of Junto is being fleshed out, why the “crazy” developers and builders of the infrastructure are getting restless and might be ready to extend themselves to each other and build the bridges between each other so that this new thing can FINALLY emerge. People want to be able to communicate with each other without being robbed. We want to share ourselves with each other because it helps us learn, relate, and grow. The most valuable things we have are time and attention. These are the things we give to people we care about. When someone makes money off of us exchanging the highest gifts we can give, it crushes the soul. Facebook has what, over 500 million people now? They don’t have to compete with the “next big thing” social network. They already have us there, and it’s a pain in the ass to have to be migrating all the time, but we’ll do it if we have to. Maybe they should just pay attention to the open movement and figure out how to be a part of it, instead of fight it. Facebook is not the wolf, the greed for money is the wolf. Facebook could unite with the open source movement and be a foundation for a new global economy to emerge. Have you seen Rushkoff describe the future of money? Have you seen Thomas Power describe the Bank of Facebook and the potential of a peer to peer business model? Do you see? There is a tremendous opportunity right now to do the right thing and EMPOWER people. And everyone can join the party. Everyone. Facebook has a choice, and ultimately it’s the battle over your soul. Are you gonna sell out, or do the right thing? Just let me be. This is what privacy means to me. What does it mean to you?

1 Comment Is Facebook a utility? and what are the alternatives?

  1. AvatarSepp

    “Just let me be. This is what privacy means to me. What does it mean to you?”

    To me, privacy is a false problem, a red herring hung out by those who would invade OUR private lives but prevent us from looking into THEIR dirty linnens.

    Let me explain.

    There is no gain in NOT having your basic information out there, especially when everyone, from a malicious hacker to a government spy and a police investigator only has to fire up their terminal to find out stuff about you that you yourself may have long forgotten. In other words, privacy protection laws are hollow, because they do not apply to those who operate, as a matter of routine, outside the bothersome constraints of “the law”. So the laws of privacy protection impede US from looking into THEM, but not the other way around. We are, whenever it pleases someone in a position of authority, as transparent as a glass bell.

    The big untapped opportunity that I see in privacy laws, despite their relative ineffectiveness in protecting our secrets, is that they bring to public attention the CONCEPT of privacy and the related concept of transparency. Those two concepts are inextricably linked and we should find a way to make them work for us.

    Since we are, despite privacy laws, quite transparent, it would be proper for us to demand the same kind of transparency we are subjected to from anyone operating in the control structure. Whether it be government bureaucrats or large companies, there should be no secrets. Openness is the new meme. And indeed, to make any sensible decision about anything, don’t we have to have all the data?

    How are we going to have any kind of a democratic society without openness? We won’t.

    So here’s the argument: What is euphemistically called individual privacy has been hollow from the beginning. It really means transparency. Our data has been and is available to anyone with the means to look. Since OUR data is out there, ALL data, including the government’s should be. It is as simple as that.

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