Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web? The Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web is well intentioned, but it seems impracticable. I may be wrong since I don’t have the technical knowledge to visualize how this perfect world of social-web-users-owners-of-their-own-data could work, but it seems unlikely to become reality at least in the short-term. I wish it were not, though. I wish I could own my own data, but sharing it is exactly the price we pay to be part of those apparently free social networks. How these networks would survive ($$$) without valuable information about us?
I opened a Facebook account in August 2009 – yes, I resisted for a long time. Seven months after joining Facebook, I separated from my husband, and I needed a healthy distance from his relatives and friends who were my friends on the social network. I thought, though, it would be rude to delete them (after all, I liked them, nothing against them); so, I decided to cancel my Facebook account and open a new one. The thing is my account was never really cancelled. I logged in afterwards, and all my albuns and information were there like if I had never left. That was scary; I was trapped into Facebook. I deleted everything I could, but my Gmail address would be forever linked to that account, which will be always in “stand-by” mode. Since I’m not using the account anymore, it would be fair that I get my data back, which will not happen.
Websites could be, at least, transparent in regards to how they use our data. Since they make money out of users’ personal information, their business rules should be clearly stated. As users of social web, we have the right to make informed decisions, such as joining a social network, or not. It doesn’t mean, though, that I wouldn’t sign up for a social network if I knew before hand that I would have my data trapped forever – I think I would join it anyway, but the thing is websites have the duty to be transparent.
Going back to the Bill of Rights, we have the right to own our data in the sense that we should be able to take it out from certain websites if we wanted to. Completely agree. But on an open web our data would be everywhere while services are in use, right? I would own my data, but I wouldn’t have much control of it anyway. Why would it be safer? Isn’t it ironic that the authors of the bill are certainly sharing their personal data with many social web services? Robert Scoble, one of them, was even called “the media” by Sebastien Provencher, and Marc Canter mentioned joining MySpace. So, how much do they care about their cause? Also, having users – not companies – in the center of the web business model is a beautiful dream. Marc Canter said, “first, users; then, their families and friends; and capitalism on the outside” – it’s a very human discourse, but social web is not a nonprofit, it’s wild business.