User:Dusan Barok/Privatising Privacy: Trojan Horse in Free Open Source Distributed Social Platforms

From XPUB & Lens-Based wiki

The critique of social graph, written in February-May 2011.


In recent years, social graph surfaced as the representation of how people are present on the web and how they are related to each other, on a global scale. It is generated by user activity on a wide range of social networking sites. Being offered the privacy control settings within the network, the users "perform their privacy" and voluntarily feed in the content designated solely for their peers. This creates not only "walled gardens" of closed systems, but more importantly, "privacy lock-in" for users who are left to demand protection of their personal data.

By creating a problematic private/public divide, the network owners are justified to take upon the role of protector, "privatise" the private data and enclose the social graph generated in this way. The owners extract the value and monetise these data sets particularly through direct marketing and social commerce by renting data to advertisers and social applications developers.

They also keep control over access to social graph because it serves as their competitive advantage. This process has created the asymmetric power relations, leading to establishment of an oligarchy of social graph owners, particularly Google and Microsoft-backed Facebook, who now dominate the social web.

Recent arrival of distributed/federated social networks (Diaspora, StatusNet) did not trigger the debate about implications of social graph and in most cases it was simply replicated as the network backbone. The paper concludes by questioning the potentiality of open sourcing the social graph.


social graph, Facebook, Google, Diaspora, StatusNet, network based marketing, online advertising, social media, federated social networks




Reading notes (in .bib format):


13 May 2011: Essay was presented and expanded under title "Like Powered Census" at Art Meets Radical Openness (Linuxwochen Linz 2011) festival within the Plutonian Striptease programme moderated by Marloes de Valk.
Talk: PDF