Saturday, March 10, 2012

We Need a Social Network Constitution

No.  Really.  We do.

We live in an age where our tools have lapped our personal freedom laws and ethics a dozen fold.  A world where data aggregators; those we let in (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) and those we don’t (who use cookies & copies of our emails), record every keystroke that you type, every search you do and every YouTube video you watch.  Someone, somewhere is taking note.  This is not ‘tinfoil-hat’ territory here; this is real and it is ubiquitous.  A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook and the story caught my eye. 

Submitted for your approval, Gentle Reader, I humbly present to you a podcast from WHYY’s, “Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane”.  She interviews a Social network and privacy expert, Lori Andrews, who is, after discovering what she is about, one of my heroes.  WHYY’s splash page for the interview states, “Social networking sites have the ability to put us in touch with old friends, help us meet our soul-mates and even topple governments, but they are also blurring the lines between our public and private selves leaving us vulnerable to invasions of our privacy.  Social network and privacy expert LORI ANDREWS says that as we work, chat, shop and date online, many of us are unknowingly opening ourselves up to surveillance from employers, schools, lawyers, the police, and even advertisers. In her recent book, "I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did,” she exposes the widespread misuse of our personal online data and proposes a “Social Network Constitution” to govern our online lives.”

It’s a great interview and I could not recommend it higher.  Before you click over to listen grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfy since the interview is about 50 minutes long.  It is worth your time

Got your coffee?  Good.  Now click here:  I’m looking forward to reading Ms. Andrews’s book.

We seek out new ways of connecting and communicating with people.  Social Media is a new frontier and the rules that were written at noon change by mid-afternoon.  Yet again our principals are being put to the test.  The founding fathers had no inclination as to the scope of personal freedom as applied to the internet.  Still, those truths still must be self-evident.  Social Media is a tool and how that tool is used – our behavior and motivation when using it, defines us.  Information is the new currency, let there be no doubt.  The “Facebook Nation” as Ms. Andrews coined it has a population that if it had boarders would be the third largest nation in the world.  Facebook has its own currency.  Who has your information?  Anyone who wants it, that’s who.  The data aggregators (see: collect the data and sell it.  Mark Zuckerberg created a billion dollar social network around the concept.  Information is not only currency but it’s also power.  There are entities out there that wish to exploit this information and, yet again, we must ask just who watches the watchmen?  Of course that is a question that we should be asking even if there was no such thing as the net.  Democracy is about free speech.  We should still value that.  Just as we wouldn’t allow cameras to watch our every move in the privacy of our own home, governments, schools, the police, and yes, even advertisers should not be able to do the same via our home computers.  You may have allowed Zynga access to your information so that you could play “Mafia Wars” but did you know that they sold that information to a data aggregate who sold it to the Republican Party?  Now the GOP knows everything about you that Facebook does.  Everything.  The legal system has not yet caught up with new and emerging technologies and/or applying the principles that have held our country together for the last 235 + years to them.  It will happen but by the time that it does will it be too late?

I stand behind Ms. Andrews Social Network Constitution’s preamble, “We the People of the Facebook Nation…”  

I hope I'm not alone.

NOTE: This humble blog is the first in a two part series.  Next up, “We Need a Social Network Declaration of Independence