Dave in particular is looking for action:
There are thorny issues here, but we want these companies to give up control of our information, and we don’t want them to be overly scared of public opinion as they do it.
And this is hardly the most important giving up of control. Most important, I want them to give me control of my data.
MoveOn.org, in a move far afield from their original mission, has created a petition for us to sign. It reads, “Facebook must respect my privacy. They should not tell my friends what I buy on other sites–or let companies use my name to endorse their products–without my explicit permission.”
At this point the voice of Jim Morrison rises from my subconscious, announcing the opening stanza from Soft Parade in the homiletic voice of a preacher from a pulpit:
When I was back there in seminary school
There was a person there
Who put forth the proposition
That you can petition the Lord with prayer
Petition the lord with prayer
Petition the lord with prayer
You cannot petition the lord with prayer!
Morrison screams that last line, in manner later perfected by the also-late Sam Kinison. My own version: Stop petitioning Facebook and Google to solve our problems for us. They’re not creating those problems alone. We’re been allowing them to create those problems in the first place, and we’ve been doing that for too long. Time to come up with some new rules of engagement — ones that work for us as well as them.
Dave, Scott Rafer and others rightly call on MoveOn.org to get back to its original mission and stay out of tech territory. But MoveOn has something right in its last four words: without my explicit permission. Question: How do we exercise that permission? By what protocols? What tools? What policies? What agreements?
Dave provides the answer:
So before we overly politicize the leading edge of technology, let’s get together on what actually does and doesn’t serve the user’s interest.
I want Netflix and Yahoo to give me an XML version of my movie ratings, for me to decide what to do with. I’ve been asking for this for a couple of years, I still don’t have it. This is information I created. I want to keep a copy. I want to make sure that Netflix knows about all my Yahoo ratings and vice versa. I’d like to give a copy to Facebook (assuming they agree to not disclose it) and maybe to Amazon, so they can recommend products I might want to purchase (again keeping it to themselves). I want to begin a negotiation with various vendors, where I give them something of value, and they give me back something of value. Permalink to this paragraph
The leaders of Silicon Valley begrudgingly gave up their view of us as couch potatoes, now they think of us as generators of content they can put ads on (and pay us nothing). We still need to work on that respect thing.
The boldface in the first paragraph is mine. Because that’s what we need to do. It’s not enough to petition the likes of Facebook to give us our data. We need to create the rules by which our data can be used. When we sign on as “members” of some company’s “social network”, they need to sign our terms as well. From the start.
For too long we’ve lived with “relationship management” that’s asymmetrical and one-way. Creating the grounds for symmetrical relationships cannot be the job of Facebook, Google, Microsoft or any big company. They can’t do it, and they won’t. We can’t petition those lords with prayer, blogs, or anything else. (Well, we can, but it won’t be enough.)
We need to create our own new rules — ones that protect our privacy while making us better members of the social and business systems we create together. I say “better” because that’s what we’re bound to be when we cease being eyeballs and start acting like whole human beings.
By the way, a great place to start doing the work Dave calls for here is the Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View, the week after next. These workshops are among the most constructive (un)conferences I’ve ever been to, and I’m not just saying that because I’m one of the organizers. Good work always happens there, in three days of serious barn-raising.
Look forward to seeing some of ya’ll there.