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Sunday, May 09, 2010

We are fools

There are about 300 million people in the US, and the census bureau just collected information on where we live, how many people are in the household etc... And when a government ask this kind of questions, you cannot help but feeling a bit nervous and wonder what they will do with the data. There is a fear of Big Brother watching us, and we do not like to see the government gain too much control over the details of our private life. I was actually surprised and relived to see how little they were asking from us. But still the thought remains present.

Meanwhile Facebook is now 400 million active users. And we are all happily sharing information on what we do, where we are, who we know, including data that is becoming even more accurate with the latest social graph implementation. All this info is controlled by one corporation that we the people do not control, with no requirement for transparency other than what Facebook themselves have agreed to in the "term of use" of the website. But how many of us have really read the details of this agreement?

Something is wrong with this picture!

The platform brings us convenience but we should not allow the concentration of so much data into the hands of a just a few. We should remember that corporations are managed by CEOs whose fiduciary duty is to maximize profits for the investors, and by a board of director who is representing these investors. Of course they operate within the law and within the constraints that they have imposed on themselves through the term of use agreement. But Enron had the same constraints, and corporations have not always behaved like good citizens with the best interest of the public in mind (should I mention BP and their lobbying efforts?). And Facebook is not even a public company, so there is no reporting requirements.

Now that social media has been proven to be something that users want, we need to take a serious look at how we do this.
400 million people on Facebook is not right. If we are going to be 400 million citizens of a social media platform in cyberspece, this platform once proven needs to be deconstructed and opened so that it can be sustainable over time. and microformats are a step in the right direction. We need to wake up, shake our laziness and get serious about building the right architecture for the web.
I want better control over my own data, and I do not want any corporation to accumulate so much data that they can gain control over more people than the entire population of the US.