Our beloved and respected Eben Moglen is back in the news this week. We met Eban a year ago during his FreedomBox days:
SuperGenius Eben Moglen wants free and unfettered access to the internet and he’s putting his money where his mind is by creating the “FreedomBox” — a device that plugs into the wall and gives you unfettered and unrestricted access to the internet — to help make certain that a government cannot disconnect its people from communicating with the rest of the world during a perceived crisis.
Now Eben is taking on Facebook — and he’s righteously angry about the rise of that particular social network:
“Mr. Zuckerberg has attained an unenviable record,” Moglen said of the founder of Facebook. “He has done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age.”
Why? Because, Moglen said, Mark Zuckerberg had harnessed the energy of our social desires to talk us into a swindle. “Everybody needs to get laid,” Moglen said. “He turned it into a structure for degenerating the integrity of human personality, and he has to a remarkable extent succeeded with a very poor deal. Namely, ‘I will give you free Web hosting and some PHP doodads, and you get spying for free all the time.'” …
“Privacy isn’t an antiquated idea,” Moglen says. “That’s like saying fresh air over the Grand Canyon is antiquated when you own a copper smelter. We know it’s wrong to invade people’s privacy. We haven’t gotten rid of the laws that say it’s a crime to look in people’s windows or steal their personal information.”
The problem, Moglen argues, is that Facebook’s usurpation of privacy isn’t an individual matter that single users can decide to make their peace with. It’s ecological: What you share and what you click on affects what Facebook knows about your friends, too. And in the aggregate, all this personal information helps build a machine that can know the past and present and make good guesses about the future, a machine whose insights are incredibly valuable to everyone from corporations to state-intelligence services.
One answer to the Facebook privacy threat is Diaspora — a social service inspired by Moglen’s rage against the ‘Book:
Diaspora lets you sort your connections into groups called aspects. Unique to Diaspora, aspects ensure that your photos, stories and jokes are shared only with the people you intend.
You own your pictures, and you shouldn’t have to give that up just to share them. You maintain ownership of everything you share on Diaspora, giving you full control over how it’s distributed.
Diaspora makes sharing clean and easy – and this goes for privacy too. Inherently private, Diaspora doesn’t make you wade through pages of settings and options just to keep your profile secure.
I signed up for Diaspora only to be told I’d have to wait. I hope that posited October timeframe is only the result of a a non-updated form email letter that means 2011 and not October 2012:
It takes a certain SuperGenius like Eben Moglen to stand forward and wrench conversation away from ordinary convenience and place the public issues of the day into the open square so we can all more readily decide if and how want our lives to be shredded for social consumption. We must be willing participants in that dissection and not just goats led to a populist slaughter in the name of Big Business.