>antisocial networking

2009/04/10 — 12 Comments

>The next wave in web technology should be the inverse of social networking. I wouldn’t want to “brand” it ‘antisocial networking’, since that connotation is a bit negative, but it has a certain ring to it:)

I am amazed by the way that social networking has set aside so many people’s sense of privacy. I was quite hesitant to use Facebook, but started “using” anyway in 2007, (2007?, yeah – late to the game, yadda yadda).

So there I was finally using Facebook, reconnecting with people, wasting a LOT of time. Very cool. Right? Maybe not. This question seemed to enter my mind a lot: who owns this data and what is being done with it? Obviously, it is being datamined and sold and kept forever.

I’d rather my correspondence with my friends and family not be sliced and diced and sold – and kept as a public (or private) record. Forever. Internet users should stop and think hard about how all of this technology impacts us, and how for profit companies are selling and searching and slicing and dicing our thoughts, plans, pictures, ideas, and opinions.

I want to opt out. But, I also want to communicate in a modern, high-tech, fun way.

I use Gmail, and I have to say that it is so easy to use – they even host my personal domain mail for me. I ran my own server for about 5 years, it was not fun. Spammers ruined it for me, I couldn’t afford the bandwidth for the spam. Gmail to the rescue. But, again, my email is datamined, ads are shown, the data is kept forever by a for-profit company.

I want to opt out.

This is the challenge for real “social entrepreneurs”: we need modern, high tech, fun communications channels like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, GChat, but these tools should be built on top of anonymity, security and privacy, (and be open source).

This is not easy. These “privy-networking” systems have to allow anonymity, security, privacy, and establish that the user owns, can copy, move or destroy the data on a whim. Oh, and they have to be easy to use too.

The fight on the privacy front is not going so well. Researchers have even figured out how to turn anonymous data into names, addreses, and phone numbers: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/04/identifying_peo.html

And don’t get me started on “Warrentless Wiretapping”, which appears to continue with gusto under our new president: http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2009/04/05

The last time I checked, you were entitled to a private conversation.

12 responses to >antisocial networking


    >It’s sentiments like this that make me wonder why more people don’t use Retromessengerbut then, maybe they are and we just don’t know about it since it’s not mentioned on social networking sites 😛


    >Where would the money come from?Google actually makes money from its data harvesting.Facebook tries to too.I don’t think there are many people out there would would pay to get what will most likely be an inferior service – and I can see no other way for the services to be self sufficient.


    >@Anonymous #2: That is a great question. I personally would pay for a solid, anonymous, secure messaging service. I would love to ditch email altogether. We can only hope that email will someday be seen as the ‘Smoke Signals’ of communications methods, as people are (hopefully) educated in online security. (Sounds like a pipe dream doesn’t it?) I think that, like many startups these days, the ‘free’ version of service X handles features A and B and the paid version handles features C through Z. Even companies like Google are going that route, as they know they won’t be able to handle the load for ‘free’ forever.Another idea is a non-profit organization for services like this supported through donations and suggested monthly minimum fees.


    >Jabber/XMPP is good for messaging. It supports status notes, encryption and could be extended to exchange profile data. Unfortunatelly i currently don’t have the time to create a prototype.


    >@beza1e1:Xmpp is one of the technologies I am thinking about using in my tinkering. The python modules in particular. I also noticed that deep in the mozilla weave source code there are some xmpp js tests. The hard part will be infrastructure. Perhaps bittorrent can be a possible message delivery mechanism?


    >My startup is working on this exact problem and are simply calling it “anonymous networking” as we see it.http://www.socialface.com/We haven’t technically launched yet, and our open source plans are still being finalized, but I would love to get everyone’s feedback on what we *do* have.The interesting parts would probably include the /about page and our privacy policy.:)


    >@admin:Love the concept, I will be checking out your site as you progress. It looks like you still have plaintext data and http urls, as well as ads, but it looks like a great start.I think client side encryption is the only way to trust the integrity of the message. This reminds me to link to KaiRo’s post that addresses this type of site:


    >So publish your items on a site YOU control. Use existing microformats and the rel attribute to identify what you’re doing. I wrote three years ago “It’s entirely possible and straightforward for my link to indicate the type of relationship: she’s my friend, this is a reply, this is a review, etc. and for us both to keep track of the link.”Use granular access (based on OpenIDs?) to limit personal items on your site to particular groups instead of the social sites’ ridiculous one-size-fits-all “friend” designation that only works with other prison inmates.Then hope for advanced feed readers that can follow the links across all the sites and services and user profiles that you can access, and that can turn them into cohesive streams.It’ll be a weird because you’ll often be able to access your friend’s comment “I disagree with Alice, Bob looks tired in that picture” without being able to see the original(s). But that’s as it should be, my buddies tell me things about other people who aren’t my friend, guy.


    >@David thanks for the client-side encryption suggestion. We were able to work on the SSL parts a little bit yesterday and now support both HTTP and HTTPS connections for Mozilla/Webkit users (look in Preferences).As for KaiRo’s idea of:”…network of independently operated Facebook servers that are all can easily communicate with each other but are not in control of one giant operator that has an unclear objective?”We relied heavily on standard DNS when planning our future architecture and these plans included giving each network an easily aliased but still unique subdomain.If you would imagine a completely anonymous platform, largely built on open source Ruby gems, exposing a full REST API, using standard DNS for resource location services, running on a modern hash-based cloud file storage system, combined with a strong belief in a person’s right to be secure, publish freely, and profit from their work – that’s us.Looking forward 🙂


    >@skierpage “other prison inmates” – you have coined a funny but very true figure of speech in your comment. Good one!


    >Enjoyed reading this, and I definitely think applying the values of communities like Mozilla in the social networking space is an interesting proposition.Security and privacy is an obvious starting point in this conversation. But, as you imply, these people are willing to make big compromises here. These things aren’t top of mind for the bulk of internet users. So the question for me is: what’s the pitch to general consumers? What’s their pain if they don’t care about privacy and security?My guess is that this is something about putting users more in the drivers seat, and letting them pull all their social networking worlds together into one that they control. The experience of spreading your reality across lots of sites sucks — and users know it.Whatever the angle, my guess is that it will be important to look at this problem from an ‘offense’ perspective (how can we make users lives easier and give them something they will be excited about?) in addition to a defense perspective (what should users be scared of securitywise?).Anyways, interesting topic.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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