[iDC] Replacing Facebook (Geert Lovink)

Hellekin O. Wolf hellekin at cepheide.org
Sun May 30 20:27:48 UTC 2010

On Sat, May 29, 2010 at 10:45:09AM +0100, Paolo Ruffino wrote:
> The idea that the content we upload on Facebook can unveil something
> of our inner personality, and make it possible to violate our privacy,
> is based on the assumption that we are coherent, sensible beings.
*** As well as mathematics.  Math rarely lie, and when it does, it
often comes from how it is interpreted.  Looking at explicit and
implicit relationships make it easy to draw an incomplete, probably
wrong, picture of an individual.  If you happen to show interests in
contents considered harmful by a third party, nothing prevents that
third party from categorizing you as whatever he likes, or rather:
fears.  You could end up in a list of "potential terrorists" if you
voice your concern about U.S. foreign policy, or support Wikileaks

In 1945, the Conseil National de la Resistance (CNR, the French
National Council for Resistance) declared files on individuals
illegal, after such files had been used to identify, arrest and
displace Jews, Gays, Communists, Anarchists and other "minorities"
opposing or targetted by the Nazi occupant.  This law was simply blown
away by the current French governement that instituted files on
individuals by merging different police, administrative, fiscal and
health records.

Whomever had the chance to see a police file know that there's a lot
of information there that doesn't reflect reality, but present a
vision of an individual through the police suspicious eye, making it
easy for a policeman reading that file to suspect you even if the
record is wrong.  For example, if you happen to be a member of a
gaming association bearing the name of a Nazi-friendly science fiction
author, you could end up as a "extreme right sympathizer" yourself.

It is the clear cut of categories that makes your "avatar" detached
from your "uncoherent self".  That picture might draw something very
similar to you when read appropriately (with actual knowledge about
yourself) but could as well prove a burden if read otherwise.

"Overloading Facebook with noise" certainly can lure the advertising
engine, but won't prevent Facebook from drawing a clear picture of you
anyway, if they really want to: they can use information from other
networks as well to consolidate their records.


I must say that as a non-Windows user, I found that the Facebook UI is
specially targetted to users of that platform, showing the same bias:
complicated settings if you want to change the defaults, invasive and
distracting popups and other system events, that often concern
irrelevant stuff.  Its main force is the social graph it provides,
making it easy to "reconnect" with old time acquaintances.

For me, Facebook is the Windows of social networking.


Re: suicide on a social network

I was very late using Facebook, finally drawn there by the buzz, and
the fact many people around me where using it.  So I gave it a try.
15 days later, I changed my email to a temporary one, removed
everything I could (although they certainly have a copy) and removed
my account (which they keep, "in case you want to use it again".)  I
changed my email before closing the account to ensure that nobody,
even myself, could ever take that login again, except if they decide
to cleanup the database at some point, which wouldn't be coherent with
what they told me at the time.

More generally, if a user can remove his contents from a network, that
gives him a huge power over the service, as the holes in the
conversations created by the removal of his contents can remove a lot
of context and make the conversation unreadable.  In a world of open
social networks, that means services have a strong incentive to be
kind to the user, and consider him more than a sale value.


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