Four Nerds Fight Facebook; Coming Soon, Individual Social Sites?

The ‘you can use my network in exchange for our right to own and monetize anything you contribute’  model of exploitation is being challenged, and if you’re smart, you can help push it into extinction.

Facebook’s under siege for their continued erosion of consumer privacy and increasing exploitation of consumer’s information. Privacy advocates, the FTC, Congress, the Canadian government, and the EU have all threatened action – and an increasing number of consumers are adding their disgust to the argument. Is an exodus in the wings? There is certainly precedent; the collapse of MySpace, once thought to be untouchable, shows how quickly a service that falls out of consumer favor can wither. When MySpace became synonymous with child predators and a lack of innovation it’s glory days were marked.

Several legal challenges to Facebook’s exploits are forming, which the company has announced their intent to fight. Yet while this battle moves slowly through the legal process, technology may significantly alter the playing field. In a move that closely parallels Facebook’s own genesis, a group of young college students is leveraging the openness of the internet and applying technical innovation to change the playing field.

It began with four ‘nerds’ creating a vision of change. After hearing a lecture by Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University, describing the current model of  centralized social networks as “spying for free,” these young men were galvanized into creating a model of individual social networks that each user would ‘own’ so you have full control of your information and privacy rather than sacrificing this to Facebook or another big business.

Explaining why centralized networks like Facebook aren’t necessary, Raphael Sofaer, 19, one of the students developing this service said. “In our real lives, we talk to each other,” he said. “We don’t need to hand our messages to a hub. What Facebook gives you as a user isn’t all that hard to do. All the little games, the little walls, the little chat, aren’t really rare things. The technology already exists.”

Figuring it would take 3-4 months to create the software, called Diaspora*, the students concluded they’d need to raise $10k in funds to live on during the development. They set up a page on Kickstarter, a funding platform site that helps people with ideas get the support they need, and estimated it would take 39 days to raise their funds.  Instead, it took 12 days. As of this writing, they’ve raised over 95k. “We were shocked,” said Dan Grippi, 21,  another one of the students involved. “For some strange reason, everyone just agreed with this whole privacy thing.”

That some reason would be consumers outrage over the exploitation. You can go to Diaspora*’s Kickstarter page to add your support.

You can also join the “FacebookProtest” movement by ensuring you log off Facebook, entirely on June 6th.

You care about your privacy, it’s time to make sure your opinions are respected, and that products don’t force you to choose between access or privacy.

More articles on this topic: Four Nerds and a Cry to Arms Against Facebook. More articles online privacy:  Debunking the myth: Young Adults Do Care About Online Privacy, and Think You’ve Got Nothing to Hide? Are You Nuts?

Linda

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