I’m sure you’re all familiar with how most external social networks operate by now. You get free access to the platform, upon which the site encourages you to post a whole lot of content. This data is then used to sell advertising to people hoping to reach you.
The model is widespread, from Google to Facebook. Is it right though, or is it an example of large companies cashing in on the free work community members do for them.
The whole idea runs counter to what Ted Nelson envisaged when he predicted the rise of social networking back in the 60’s. His idea was that each time someone contributed data to the social network, they would receive a micropayment from the network for their efforts. So for instance, if you add something to the newly acquired Waze system, Google would have to pay you for that input.
The notion is certainly an interesting one. There is obviously a vast ‘free economy’ existing on the web. For instance, you don’t have to pay to read this blog (although you can click on some ads if you want). You can go onto the Huffington Post and read articles from people who are not paid for their work. You can go onto YouTube and listen to music that you haven’t paid for. You can register for a MOOC and get free university standard education.
Whilst that notion of lots of free content is incredibly enticing, but are those short-term gains hiding from us the longer term issues that may come from the loss of the livelihoods in those industries?
Of course the issue has taken on added importance recently with the news that many social networks have been turning over the data we’ve freely posted to security agencies around the world. So not only were we freely contributing to the vast Facebook fortune, we were also eroding our liberties into the bargain. Is that really worth getting something for free?
There’s an interesting talk on the issue below by Ted Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, who launched StopWatching.Us recently in protest to it all. He talks about the need to have power and control over the data we submit online. Does he go far enough though? Is securing privacy enough or should networks also be paying us for the data and labour we’re providing to them for free? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.