SOPA/PIPA, Privacy and Privatization

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Once again, we have witnessed the power of the Internet (not only social media!) to empower stakeholders and oppose potential legislation that, some will argue, takes only into account the perspective of those who have resources to lobby the US Congress. For now, SOPA/PIPA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act), essentially promoted by the film and recording industry of the US, is in a limbo after Wednesday’s Internet blackout and a global outcry against its potential implications for the “Internet Freedom” agenda. However, it seems that this will not be the end of the draft legislation and we might see it in the near future in a modified version.

While the two sides of the battle are clearly demarcated, I read this Op-Ed article in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/opinion/sopa-boycotts-and-the-false-ideals-of-the-web.html) which takes a different stand on the issue. Its author makes an interesting link to both privacy and privatization.

In the 21st century, we are the main providers of content. Actually, this is part and parcel of the so-called Web 2.0 technologies. This was unthinkable last century where corporations also owned the content they distributed. This shift brought forward a change in business model where content is now “free” so what companies need to do is package it and sell it for advertisement, etc. Google is a good example here. This is partly why many new IT companies do not support SOPA/PIP as revenues and profits do not come from selling their own content. All in all, we can say that our content, the stuff we write and share, is being privatized and sold for a profit.

Enter Facebook and the picture changes a bit more. Now I need to provide a profile to be able to share my content and access the content of others. While initially profiles could be more like avatars, new legislation in the US requires that profiles must be real and reflect a real human being.

I opened a Facebook account a few years ago. About six months ago I was asked to confirm my profile by providing my cell phone number. I refused and then my account was disabled. No warning. About two weeks ago, I contacted Facebook (via email of course!) and asked what I needed to do to reactivate my account. I was told to scan a government issued ID, email it to them and, upon checking, they will reactivate the account. They also told me that my scanned ID copy will be deleted by them. Really?

But this is the nature of private social networks so we should not be to shocked about this. Not at all.

At any rate, while my privacy is being reduced the privatization of my own content is increasing. In the midst of this, intellectual property is taking a beating as it is not as relevant in the new virtual space. And this is what the NY Times article calls The False Ideals of the Web.

Cheers, Raúl

 

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