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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Big Brother is watching you!

I am stuned... At a time when we do a lot with the web and when you would think we are getting more and more freedom to access and share content, the opposite is actually happening.

I just subscribed to ATT U-Verse, and I discovered an amazing new feature on the DVR service: "Nickolodeon does not allow the recording of this show".

So now I am paying for the content, and I am paying for the DVR box, which was sold to me as a great improvement to the existing solution because I can start watching a recorded show in my living room and then I can go to watch the end in my bedroom.
EXCEPT (small detail) that I cannot record the shows I want, just the one that ATT and the channels in my mix allow. Oops.

So technology, which is supposed to make it easier for me, is actually turning into a way for the big corporations to have more control over my life.
It used to be that I could program my VCR to capture the feed from any show on a tape. It was taking time and space but it was all here for me. But the new improved version of the same functionality is that I cannot record the Nickolodeon shows anymore. Nickolodeon want my kids to be in front of the TV at 6pm when it is diner time or at 9pm when they are supposed to be in bed. And if they are not, sorry, you cannot watch.

It reminds me of when I was traveling to China and I was watching TV5 in my hotel bedroom. Every now and then, the TV would have black outs, something that looked like a problem with the connection and would only last a few seconds. But something so systematic across many hotels that you know somebody was editing the feed to make sure I was not given subversive news that would pollute my mind.

This is also my user experience with Facebook: I can send messages to my friends, but when comes the New Year and I want to send all of them my best wishes, I can only send it to 40 of them and then I get a big red message warning me that "I AM ENGAGING IN A BEHAVIOR THAT VIOLATES THE FACEBOOK POLICIES". How friendly is that? And what kind of social network am I in that only lets me communicate to 40 people max.
Who decided that I am clearly a spammer if I have more than 40? Wouldn't people report me if my message was offensive or inappropriate in any way? Isn't it the beauty of social networks that your reputation is always at stake and therefore you tend to behave better because you know there would be consequences otherwise? Or is it just Facebook worried that I advertise by sending direct messages instead of paying their advertising department?

And the same is happening with Apple store, where I am not allowed to download Qik for my iPhone, forcing me to jailbreak it if I want to stream videos to the web through their service. How is this helping innovation? Why do we have to go to hacks to get what we want that is available and works on the platform?

The world is changing and we can do more today than we could before, but Big Brother is watching and the corporations are fighting back.
We have to pay attention, and we cannot let them have the last word...

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