I own my blog. I own my family snapshots. I own my website. I don’t outsource any of these things. Some of them even run from a web server in my own house because I don’t use a mass market internet provider that prevents me from doing so. Even the whole structure of the internet — with asymmetric bandwidth to homes discourages this, but some people persevere. Why?
Certainly I see the opposite happening for most people. Thousands of business plans from Twitter to Google to Facebook to LinkedIn depend on people outsourcing (or cloudsourcing to be trendy) their personal data. Many of these business plans use links within the data or advertising to the people or both to produce money. Is this really such a bad thing? One friend even opines that he would love to receive really accurately targeted advertising — it would save him from doing too much research if someone knew exactly what he wanted “right now.”
There is some discussion in corporate circles about the risk of outsourcing data. Does the company you outsource to have your best interests at heart? Do they meet the goverment regulatory requirements for your business? What about corporate espionage?
Shouldn’t we ask the same personal questions?
The problem, I suppose, is that we want everything for free. Especially when it’s personal. There’s no incentive for companies to make easy-to-use software to do all these things for individual people because the big giants offer it all for free and it’s very hard to compete with free. I certainly pay that price. I setup my own WordPress. I setup my own webserver. In terms of my snapshots, it has often taken longer for me to post new pictures because it requires I do a bunch of things — it’s not the automatic easy of YouTube or Facebook.
All is not lost. My new phone (the n900) automatically syncs the pictures and videos I take to my computer. Step one of many, I know, but step one nonetheless. There is also a move afoot to allow more competition in the social web space — under the heading Distributed Social Network you can find quite a bit of effort and information.
Why is this even important? The news story that got me thinking about this today was “Twitter Is Hero as Feds Attempt to Trample WikiLeaks’ Free Speech” Now this article is talking about Twitter doing the right thing — but it’s also talking about many other sites likely doing the wrong thing. And that’s just it: things like “National Security Letters” go to your service providers and are acted upon without your knowledge — even though the entire process concerns you. And you don’t get to ever know.
The point isn’t National Security Letters. They’re just an example where the organization holding your data has interests that are not aligned with your own. If you owned your own data, that letter (or that conflict) would be addressed to you — for you to work out.
Information about people is only going to become more important. Control over that information will become control over that individual. One of the great predictions of virtual life was that our avatars would enjoy a disconnected different life in cyberspace. The cruel truth is that our online presence only serves to document (in excruciating detail) our physical one