Social Networking Vulnerable, Federate It To Protect It (Part 1)

Saturday, 2011-January-15 at 06:31

Social networking is the big thing these days. What happened to face-to-face interaction, people ask. As employers demand more and more of our time, as we increase the physical distance between where we live and where other people who are or have been important in our lives live, as we disconnect from the landline telephone system and broadcast television (replacing them with mobile phones and Internet-enabled communications devices), it is only natural that we would grab onto something that allows us to continue our existing relationships and to build new ones. Now, we have to understand that–as currently structured–the social web is extremely vulnerable, being in the almost sole control of a small number of vendors, including Facebook and its fading rivals MySpace and Bebo; Twitter and its weaker rivals Jaiku and Plurk; the for-sale or soon-closing Delicious and its rivals Diigo and already-closed Magnolia; the not-closing-yet Flickr and its rival Zooomr; Digg and its competitor Reddit; and even blogging sites (WordPress.com, TypePad, LiveJournal, Xanga). As was already the case with Pownce (a “better” Twitter which was purchased and closed) and (Ma)Gnolia and which will soon be the case with Yahoo! Video, those who post data to any centralized service are subject to losing that data when the service closes. If the service is sold or taken over, the new owners may have a completely different privacy policy than the original owners–your writings and photos may suddenly wind up being distributed and used without you having any say in the matter.

As any economics student can tell you, monopolies and oligopolies, once they form, are not concerned about you and your needs at all. Your cable company is not concerned about making you happy, but with preventing you from purchasing services from others which they can sell to you instead (for a small added fee, of course).

It does not have to be closing, nor being bought out. Users of Brightkite’s status updates and location services found they had mere days to try and retrieve their data before the service wiped the data from their old services as it transitioned to a “group texting” service. In fact, users who used external services or clients to post were caught off guard when they were no longer able to post.

Lesson number one. Every service is subject to closure, even those run by the largest companies in the business. As we go on in this series, we’ll talk about how to reduce the impact you experience from any particular service’s closure. For now, just think about all the information you have posted to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogsome, and so on. What happens if a particular service closes before you have had a chance to download your data? What happens if they are taken over by someone who changes the terms of service to give them the right to use or sell your data?

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Untitled Social Networking Vulnerable, Federate It To Protect It (Part 2)


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