2015-06-17 On social media

Why is social media not really my cup of tea? This is not to paint a dystopian image, but just to remind ourselves, that about the current state of the world:

  • We are the product. Social medias are commercial entities with the purpose of profit. This gives a strong conflict of interest, where their interest is not for the best of us, but instead to collect our data, and direct our behaviour towards their customers.
  • Loosing ownership of content, – when you post on a social media, you are required to give away a lot of the rights to the content you post.
  • Collecting biometric information, – tagging on social media has a side purpose of building a biometric profile about you, ie. train software to be able to recognize you on images.
  • Data are handed over to third parties, including foreign governmental agencies with no respect for non-US citizens personal rights.
  • Data are collected about our behaviour on the web, outside of the social media sites, through trackers etc. They also build shadow profiles with additional information, even of users not on their social media, and they do not support removal of your personal data.
  • We are granting them a lot of information, and a monopoly, on scientific studies and data mining of very large scale human social behaviour, including propagation of ideas across large groups.
  • They are creating a “filter bubble” and prioritizing the content they show in our news feed to support their agenda of selling your attention, etc.
  • They know things about you, that your best friends do not know. They record every action you do on their site, – and for example if you look a lot on a certain page or profile, they infer that you have heighten interest in that area etc.
  • It is a walled garden. They try the best to have ownership/monopoly on your data and not give them away to you or others who do not pay them. In facebook for example, they do not support that you retrieve your own data, except for the legal requirement of exporting everything at once. They recently closed down for external clients to connect to their chat, and it is not possible to make automatic backup of your own messages/communication unless you scrape their site, which is against their terms of service, and will get your account closed.
  • They are very much limiting how you can access your data as a developer, and changing it according to their whim. So writing applications on the social media platform is totally on their premises, – and on very shaky ground
  • You are forced to use it if you want to participate in at certain events and if you want to connect in the social life, – they have a lock-in due to the many people using it.
  • Very different from the vision and realisation of the free open internet of the old days.

This is not to say that you should not use facebook (or other other social media, of which many are similar in most of the points). This is just to remind you of the facts of the world.

After a couple of years of not really using social media, I have decided to begin to use it again, as a lot of information is only available there, and it is the socially appropriate way to connect and reach out in many contexts.

Using social media still makes me feel that I compromise some of my ideas of an open world, and I take some precautions:

  • I mainly host content on my own server, and only post links to it, – and thereby not giving up fewer of my rights.
  • When browsing the web, I make it slightly more difficult to spy on me: noscript without whitelist, using startpage.com for searching, regularly resetting persistent data, and using various privacy aware browser plugins.
  • I only log in to facebook, google etc. through a separate dedicated webbrowser on my computer and not on any other devices.

I also encourage you to be aware of your data, and also to have your information available on the open web, instead of only within the walled gardens.