Information Bartering. Privacy and Social Media for you and me.

30 Jan

A is to B as C is to D. (deep breath, here we go)

Language is more powerful than the “duh facebook and the internet is not private” delegation supposes. The status update that made me comment on this is, if I may paraphrase [putting up a comment to claim ownership your boob shot photos is like writing a sentence on your cigarette pack to prevent cancer].
The topic as a whole is interesting on several fronts, which I will get into, but I’d like to unpack this statement a bit before moving on.
First is the wrongness of the conflation of the relation between legal statements and intellectual property rights and end user agreements, and the effect of a statement on, shall we say an activity and its closely correlated physical effects, i.e. smoking and cancer.

They are not the same thing, if I have to put it more plainly. The Internet is not free and open-sourced across the board. It’s a tricky reef of disclosure and differing shades of intellectual property ownership. We, as regular citizens and users of the internet, have just been acclimatized to give up our privacy and rights in order to enjoy a benefit provided by a company. There is a price for everything. You sacrifice your privacy on Facebook for the ability to share the minutiae of your life with hundreds of people and vice versa. It’s great. You feel way more important as a human being, smarter, funnier and more interesting because of the feedback and validation that you get. We all live for the likes and comments that we get. It’s a contract that we enter into with Facebook to enjoy their service. This recent exchange between the privacy-protective and the privacy-ambivalent that has made me question that acceptance, though.
Facebook makes its revenue through advertising and selling of our data, which basically tracks our behaviour online to create better advertising algorithms (this is not exhaustive, so add to it below). So our activity is what benefits Facebook, and the more we use it, the better data they have, and the more ad revenue the get, simply put. At what point do we suppose that they can claim our content as well? I think there is confusion between privacy and ownership of intellectual property, which isn’t being addressed. Ok, suppose I have put my content on the Internet, does that mean that I therefore renounce my ownership of it and release it into the public domain? I don’t think so. If I put up a story or a photo on my own website, there is no question that can I hold the copyright on the content, supposing that I actually own or created the content, and that it fits the criteria of a copyrightable thing. It somehow changes when you post your image on a third party website such as facebook, where they can impose their use conditions on you, and you can’t complain? There is a mutual benefit between the audience and Facebook, from our use of Facebook, and we shouldn’t have the mentality that the contract we sign when we click “ok to continue” is valid and binding in perpetuity, or until they release a new version of the use condition. I think we have been fleeced into the sheep-like mentality where we feel like we have to accept contractual conditions or refuse outright. Contracts are NEGOTIATED, and we should exercise the option to negotiate. Statements like, if you don’t like it you don’t have to use it, are just specious. You can’t not use facebook. You can’t not use twitter. Not if you are some functioning member of society with aspirations of actually doing something. Not if you aren’t already established and don’t need the contact. Otherwise, not using social media would be like not having a phone, or not knowing how to read and write. Anyways, getting back to the comment that started all this. Legal disclaimers, statements et al are not stupid and ineffectual. The law is language, it takes the form of statements that people are posting to their wall. Look at the way corporations use them to absolve themselves of liability, or to control the behaviours of others. It all comes down to the ability to execute and enforce the claim or disclaimer. We as regular users don’t have the means to litigate or force a mediation with Facebook, yet. But I still don’t think we should just give up our option to negotiate. Yes, it may be futile to put up that stupid Bernes convention statement (I didn’t do it, for fear of it being a hoax or looking like a bandwagon rider/jumper), but I also don’t think that we just have to accept the way the service is being run, no matter what.


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