I am in mid-America right on Independence Day. Some Californians would think negatively about this. I find that Kansas and its nearby states are full of people who are much like the people in LoCal (both areas lack the arrogant self-righteousness that is often found in “coasties” and especially in NorCal residents). In either place, people are not aware of the extent to which corporations have gained control over our lives and our political processes. Further, they lack awareness of just how important copyrights, patents, and proprietary software are to the corporate puppetmasters who are rapidly enslaving us.
Let me make it clear. The new corporate slave-masters are not concerned about your sex (“plumbing”) or gender (how you perceive yourself), or ancestry or ethnic background, except to the extent that they can use that to deprive you of legal leverage. Thanks to a recent court ruling, these things matter even less. Boilerplate language that deprives you of the ability to use the legal system again powerful corporations is now inviolable.
In this time, it is even more important to help awaken US-ians to the need to sacrifice if necessary, but by all means start to deprive the copyright cartels, mobile telephone network operators, cable television operators, broadcasters, and large proprietary software companies of financial resources. I intend to become more active here and elsewhere with long-form writings to inform, persuade, and propel people to use freedom-respecting / freedom-preserving software (open source / free software) to produce their own original, remixable media.
Finally, let us no longer be captivated by the conjoined twin political parties (Republican & Democratic parties). Neither one is for you and I instead of for-profit & non-profit organizations. Neither one is on our side.
As we saw in Part 1, the information you share on social networking sites is vulnerable because they are subject to closure at any time. Site closure is not the only way your data can be lost leaked. When you sign up for a service, somebody is paying rent on a building, paying electricity to run a server, paying staff members, and paying for network service. As much as you may like to think that random companies like you so much that they provide all these things for free, that is really not the case. They are seeking to get paid by someone for something. Many sites are partially or entirely advertising-supported. This means that you are bait to enable them to catch advertising sponsors. Several years ago, this meant that they had to use pop-ups, pop-unders, and other unsavory techniques to try and divert your attention from the content that brought you to the site. In exchange, these advertisers would pay the site money. These days, advertisers want personal information to enable them to “target” their ads at groups to which you belong, in an effort to make you more likely to buy their products and services. Facebook is willing to help application developers access users’ names, usernames, genders, addresses and mobile phone numbers. (While this is a particularly egregious example, Facebook is not the only one doing such things). It is important to understand that if you don’t have a financial relationship with the company offering the service, you are not their customer. You are merely the bait they use to catch their customers. Now let us think about some scenarios.
The DeLorean Scenario: Person decides to start an ad-supported social network. Service never gains enough users to produce enough ad revenue, so person resorts to “desperate measures” in order to keep the doors open a little longer. In this case, person sells access to the user database. Ooh. Now “Scumbag Collectors LLC” starts calling you because someone you went to high school with owed their client some money.
The Leaker Scenario: Something you said angers rich and politically-connected people. Suddenly, your accounts at big, centralized social networking services are cancelled, and you have no access to your pictures or other data which you had uploaded.
The Cracker Scenario: That big social networking site suffers a security breach. They gain your information, including a password which you use for your e-mail and three other social networking sites and your bank. Before you know it, your money is gone and images of you are edited to show you performing disgusting acts with farm animals before being re-uploaded to your sites.
Shameful Scenario: The service chooses to accept advertising from companies, organizations, and causes you personally find distasteful. People who visit your online profile are greeted by extremist group recruitment ads featuring video of group members telling why non-members’ lives have no value to them.
Monopoly Scenario: The company behind the site makes so much money from ads that they stop responding to the needs of site users at all. However, your online data and veryone you know is on that site.
DMCA Scenario: Something you post brings a charge of copyright violation. Rather than allowing you to prove that someone else’s copyright is not being violated, the site decides to cancel your account.What each of these scenarios have in common is centralization. Centralization makes social networks vulnerable, more vulnerable than they would be otherwise. With centralization comes unequal power. With centralization, $BIGNETWORK can treat you any way they choose when everyone you communicate uses that network and only that network. With centralization comes the need for big data centers, big expensive data centers, with plenty of ad revenue to pay for them. With centralization comes the overpaid CEO who somehow believes he/she “deserves” to earn millions of dollars per year while the site which is paying that salary is unmaintained for years at a time. Lesson number two: With centralization, especially where you have no financial relationship with the company providing the central site, comes all sorts of abusive activities. With centralization, one company has its hands on the collective throats of its users’ social networking activities. Unless you pay for the site, you’re not a customer, and the company that owns the site will likely have no loyalty to you, nor much of an urgency to solve any situations you find problematic. Keep a watch on the things that are being done by the social networking sites you use. Try to be ready to jump off of those which are provided to you without charge in order to protect yourself from the anti-user activities such sites often engage in.
I’m now using Amplify and Posterous (and soon, possibly Tumblr) as a way to begin unifying the various blogs and microblogs I use. I often have 12 or more tabs open in a browser in order to monitor and respond to everything. I’m hoping to slim that down.With Yahoo shutting down service after service, I think I need to ensure that no non-paid service hosts all my data. I want to move to paid accounts with the services that are most important (and which accept such accounts), such as the StatusNet Cloud, WordPress.com and TypePad.And hopefully, I’ll take more time during the current unpaid downtime to build and develop my skills and understanding even more.Note to Amplify.com, Posterous.com, and Tumblr.com: you should keep an eye on Diaspora and similar projects. The day that Diaspora offers a client API, you should begin implementing it. And same for Friendika, GNU Social, and other, similar projects.
A couple of years ago, I spent about two months trying to buy a Lenovo laptop without Windows and then waiting for my refund when they wouldn’t accomodate me. (To this day, I don’t recommend anyone attempt to do business directly with Lenovo. They could easily have told me up front that the system I saw on their site was no longer available.)
I have purchased Dell’s N-series a couple of times, (by entering www.dell.com/ubuntu to get there) and have noticed that they are nearly always months behind the comparable Windows machine in hardware specs. But this intrigues me. I think I will attempt the same thing next time I have the funds and the desire to buy a computer. Either that, or I’ll head directly over to System76.
And by the way, if Dell were at all serious about Linux, they would make sure that everything they make has certified Penguin-compatible hardware. That way, even those who pay the "Windows tax" have the option of replacing it with a privacy-respecting, freedom-preserving operating system. My nephew and I have Dell lappies that were bought at retail stores. Both have Broadcom BC-4312 wireless cards that only work when they feel like it (using either the open b43 driver or the company’s binary sta driver).