Corporate Social Networking .. How Cool Is That!Tagged as: culture free_spaces indymedia non_corporate_social_networking privacy social_networking social_struggles surveillance technology
Neighbourhoods: internet web
Published by group: Indymedia London
Sparkled from some articles posted to Indymedia London recently about Non Corporate Social Networks and a report from the Software Summit that took place in Whitechapel, as well as an audio interview to Eben Moglen of the Free Software Foundation also published to this site not long ago, I share below some of the reasons why I think corporate social nut-workin is so cool!
“To try to own knowledge, to try to control whether people are allowed to use it, or to try to stop other people from sharing it, is sabotage.” – Richard Stallman, 1986.
Desktops, laptops, notebooks, I-Pads, mobile phones, blackberries, I-phones, the list of available devices that allows us to be ‘connected’ in real time seems to increase by the minute. To be constantly ‘available’ online seems to be a primary preoccupation for most people these days, and the big corporations obviously know about this. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Appple … they all compete ‘to help us being in touch’. To be there, to be on the ball, and to make sure we know ’what’s going on’ even before it has actually happened. We don’t need to worry any more, they tell us, we’ll never be isolated again. It is very easy, we only need to go down to our nearest shopping mall or high street, buy the latest gadget, join one of the platforms they offer us and bingo!, we can immediately become someone with a voice and big presence in the web. Set up a Facebook profile and create your own page there, create your Twitter account, put your media in Youtube, Flickr or Myspace, and who knows, before your switch your device off to re-charge it you may even have tens, hundreds or thousands of followers. Not bad eh? You have now become your own DIY celebrity.
It sounds cool and an easy enough thing to do, doesn’t it? But, of course, there’s always a catch. Governments – with the aid of the big buck corporations of course – seem to have had enough of the free for all, open, democratic and horizontal space the web once was, and with excuses such as ‘organised crime’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘piracy’ they clearly now seem bound to enclose the internet once and for all. Legislation that clearly attacks your privacy is being introduced everywhere, and the beauty of being able to freely share knowledge and data with others is also increasingly being treated as illegitimate and ‘theft’, and thus punishable as a crime. Obviously governments and global institutions of governance can’t do this on their own. They don’t even control the internet. But corporations do, and they are increasingly becoming the web’s police force. Your internet service provider is now required by law to log and keep your internet usage for a long period of time, and if they don’t like the way you use the connection they ‘offer’ you they can just legally switch you off. Like an over zealous school teacher that expels you from the class for being too naughty, your ISP can now expel you from the internet for downloading too much data from ‘illegal’ sources, or for sharing too much content with your peers.
But hey, I don’t do anything wrong myself you may think. I am ok. I just use my Facebook and Twitter accounts for very innocuous things. I have a Youtube channel under my name and some Flickr pages too, but these are only for my holiday and party snaps. It doesn’t really mater, they can survey me as much as they like, because there’s nothing there that may interest them. Well, sorry, you are wrong. There’s a lot that interests them in your data. As innocuous you think it may be, it is still data, and this is the prime resource these corporations make big bucks with. Without you putting your videos, photos, texts, audio on these corporate platforms, and without you networking in there or even organising your events – thus legitimising their existence – they would not have the raw material necessary to exist, expand and conquer.
All data you put up in Facebook, Flickr, Myspace, Twitter .. you name it! immediately becomes private property of big business, and thus marketeable as capital’s commodities. They make the bucks, not you, and that’s the primary reason why they are so keen in offering you the possibility to be endlessly connected. Ok, you can argue that this is nothing new as, for example, they already own your labour force anyway. You already have got to work so you can pay your bills, so what’s the story then? Well, one could argue that the story goes like this: your data is not only becoming property of private corporations, but more importantly, increasingly YOU also do! Getting hold of your privacy is one of their main interests. Knowing who you talk to, who are your friends and networks, what do you actually do with them, what are your interests and how do you go about experiencing them, is something they take as raw and primary material to then package it and sell it back to you. Yes, but still, you may argue, I am not doing anything wrong so it doesn’t really matter what they do with my data, besides there’s nothing I can do about it, is there?. Ok, put it this way: would you want to install a video camera in your bedroom recording all you do in there, or wire your home with microphones so your everyday life gets recorded and put in databases that, by the way, are totally beyond your control? No? You wouldn’t? Why not? You are not doing anything wrong, are you?
Like most things in life, at the end of the day it is down to us to decide what kind of relationship we want to have with the current state of affairs, and what do we do to try to retain as much control of our lives as we can. And the internet is not a different reality. You ultimately have the choice to continue in the hands of big corporations because it is convenient and easier to do, or, alternatively, you may want to consider to be more careful with what web platforms you use for your everyday communications. The choices are out there for us to embrace. We just need to want to do so.