Signing away your rights (cont’ed)


General Culture

The New York Times catches up with the blogosphere (see my earlier post). I just love this: “Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, said in a blog post on Monday that the philosophy ‘that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant.’ Despite the complaints, he did not indicate the language would be revised.” So basically he’s saying that people own their information and control who they share it with, except that they don’t, and Facebook won’t change a thing. Nice! If you live in Germany, however, the law is on your side (see this article). Here’s another good post about this mess.

(Updated below)

Update (18 Feb 2009): Facebook Reverses Decision and Announces Temporary Return to Prior Terms and Conditions. Some people write this episode “raises the question whether the Internet is changing the balance of power between the drafters of one-sided terms of use and their customers.” Others argue that “Facebook is a company, a business entity, and its objective is to make profit - preferably plenty of it. To do so, it must exploit - sorry, but there’s no other term that is accurate and honest - its 175 million users.” I think it’s all a bit early to really know what this means, but hopefully, there is now some awareness concerning the practices of companies operating online.

There’s something - related to this - that I’ve had on my mind for a while now: In the early 1980’s we used to be worried about “1984” - our lives becoming increasingly transparent and controlled. Back then, it was the government that was thought to be behind this. Now, 25 years later, most people happily share information that back then nobody would have given away. And it’s not just that that information is given away, it’s also handed to corporations who are not subject to any oversight other than that of their shareholders (provided they have any); and most people don’t even bother reading the fine print (“terms”).

I suppose this is what getting older feels like: Seeing people (often including yourself!) do things that decades ago you might only have done if someone had held your grandma hostage.