Reply to The Indieweb privacy challenge (Webmentions, silo backfeeds, and the GDPR) by Sebastian Greger

Replied to The Indieweb privacy challenge (Webmentions, silo backfeeds, and the GDPR) by Sebastian GregerSebastian Greger (sebastiangreger.net)
Originally intended to showcase a privacy-centred implementation of emerging social web technologies – with the aim to present a solution not initially motivated by legal requirements, but as an example of privacy-aware interaction design – my “social backfeed” design process unveiled intricate challenges for Indieweb sites, both for privacy in general and legal compliance in particular.

Again Sebastian Greger has written up a well-thought-out and nuanced approach to design. Here he discusses privacy and GDPR with a wealth of research and direct personal experience in these areas. He’s definitely written something interesting which I hope sparks the beginning of a broader conversation and evaluation of our ethics.

There’s so much to think about and process here, that I’ll have to re-read and think more specifically about all the details. I hope to come back to this later to mark it up and annotate it further.

I’ve read relatively deeply about a variety of privacy issues as well as the weaponization of data and its improper use by governments and businesses to unduly influence people. For those who are unaware of this movement over the recent past, I would highly recommend Cathy O’Neil’s text Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, which provides an excellent overview with a variety of examples about how the misuse of data can be devastating not just to individuals who are broadly unaware of it, but entire segments of society.

There is a lot of publicly available data we reveal via social media and much of it one might flippantly consider “data exhaust” which has little, if any inherent value by itself. Unfortunately when used in aggregate, it can reveal striking things about us which we may either not be aware of ourselves or which  we wouldn’t want to be openly known.

My brief thought here is that much like the transition from the use of smaller arms and handguns, which can kill people in relatively small numbers, to weapons like machine guns on up to nuclear weapons, which have the ability to quickly murder hundreds to millions at a time, we will have to modify some of our social norms the way we’ve modified our “war” norms over the past century. We’ll need to modify our personal social contracts so that people can still interact with each other on a direct basis without fear of larger corporations, governments, or institutions aggregating our data, processing it, and then using it against us in ways which unduly benefit them and tremendously disadvantage us as individuals, groups, or even at the level of entire societies.

In my mind, we need to protect the social glue that holds society together and improves our lives while not allowing the mass destruction of the fabric of society by large groups based on their ability to aggregate, process, and use our own data against us.

Thank you Sebastian for kicking off a broader conversation!

Disclaimer: I’m aware that in posting this to my own site that it will trigger a tacit webmention which will ping Sebastian Greger’s website. I give him permission to display any and all data he chooses from the originating web page in perpetuity, or until such time as I send a webmention either modifying or deleting the content of the originating page. I say this all with some jest, while I am really relying on the past twenty years of general social norms built up on the internet and in general society as well as the current practices of the IndieWeb movement to govern what he does with this content.

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2 responses on “Reply to The Indieweb privacy challenge (Webmentions, silo backfeeds, and the GDPR) by Sebastian Greger”

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  • Frank Meeuwsen
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