[FoRK] <nettime> Privacy, Moglen, @ioerror, #rp12

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Sun May 20 09:00:58 PDT 2012

I was thinking about this a little further.

If we ignore desktops for the time being, and think primarily about
handhelds, what if the always-on cloud-app-space was just
a virtualised instance of your handheld OS that is bonded to your actual
handheld OS. Think about being able to fire up a process, and decide
whether it will exist on the handheld or in the cloud.

You would install an app on to your handheld's 'desktop', and each app
would consist of a hand-side component and/or an always-on cloud-side

Your distributed facebook-like social agent would have a heavier weight
cloud-side component, responsible for
storing/gathering/disseminating/curating your social connections. In this
case, the cloud-side component would essentially be a webserver and

Now, there is no particular reason why the cloud-side environment should
have the same OS as the hand-side environment, except that it simplifies
programming issues, and provides a relatively seamless transition from
hand-side to cloud-side.

On Tue, May 8, 2012 at 2:30 PM, Damien Morton <dmorton at bitfurnace.com>wrote:

> In my opinion, there is a fundamental problem with decentralising social
> media.
> What is needed is for everyone to have some always-on compute and storage
> space, which is as easy to use as their mobile and desktop devices, and
> ideally is pretty much transparent in use - your 'apps' in the cloud should
> probably appear to you the same as an app on your desktop or handset, and
>  maybe every OS instance should come with a cloud-based companion.
> Once every computer and/or person has a always-on cloud-app-space, having
> a distributed, encrypted facebook becomes as easy as making a facebook-like
> app available for download and installation.
> The fundamental issue is of maintaining these 'apps' in the cloud. If you
> delegate maintenance to the app developer, you pretty much also have to
> delegate data access rights.
> The other issue is economic - no-one has any incentive to create this vast
> cloudy compute and storage space for free, and given that a distributed
> system will tend to be less efficient than a centralised system.
> We have Apple and Microsoft providing cloudspaces to their OS users, but
> they arent providing general purpose compute/storage nodes quite yet.
> On Tue, May 8, 2012 at 12:19 PM, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
>> I agree that this is what has been happening.
>> Having a proper model and providing needed value, especially content and
>> cloud services, while being open and flexible on the neophyte / expert
>> self-hoster spectrum, is possible and desirable.  At a certain point, with
>> certain features, it becomes necessary.  Although slightly improved lately,
>> all social media is still shallow.  I think I know what the solution looks
>> like.  Now, back to coding.
>> Stephen
>> On 5/8/12 5:35 AM, Eugen Leitl wrote:
>>> ----- Forwarded message from Dmytri Kleiner<dk at telekommunisten.net**>
>>>  -----
>>> From: Dmytri Kleiner<dk at telekommunisten.net**>
>>> Date: Tue, 08 May 2012 09:21:40 +0200
>>> To: nettime-l at kein.org
>>> Subject:<nettime>  Privacy, Moglen, @ioerror, #rp12
>>> Organization: Telekommunisten
>>> User-Agent: Roundcube Webmail/0.6
>>> Privacy, Moglen, @ioerror, #rp12
>>> I gave a talk with Jacob Applebaum at last week's Re:publica conference
>>> in
>>> Berlin.
>>> It seems it had fallen to us to break a little bad news. Here it is.
>>> - We are not progressing from a primitive era of centralized social media
>>> to an emerging era of decentralized social media, the reverse is
>>> happening.
>>> - Surveillance and control of users is not some sort of unintended
>>> consequence of social media platforms, it is the reason they exist.
>>> - Privacy is not simply a consumer choice, it is a matter of power and
>>> privilege.
>>> Earlier at Re:publica, Eben Moglen, the brilliant and tireless legal
>>> council of the Free Software Foundation and founder of the FreedomBox
>>> Foundation, gave a characteristically excellent speech.
>>> However, in his enthusiasm, he makes makes a claim that seems very wrong.
>>> Moglen, claims that Facebook's days as a dominant platform are numbered,
>>> because we will soon have decentralized social platforms, based on
>>> projects
>>> such as FreedomBox, users will operate their own federated platforms and
>>> form collective social platforms based on their own hardware, retain
>>> control of their own data, etc.
>>> I can understand and share Moglen's enthusiasm for such a vision, however
>>> this is not the observable history of our communications platforms, not
>>> the
>>> obvious direction they seem to be headed, and there is no clear reason to
>>> believe this will change.
>>> The trajectory that Moglen is using has centralized social media as the
>>> starting point and distributed social media as the place we are moving
>>> toward. But in actual fact, distributed social media is where we started,
>>> and centralized platforms are where we have arrived.
>>> The Internet is a distributed social media platform. The classic internet
>>> platforms that existed before the commercialization of the web provided
>>> all
>>> the features of modern social media monopolies.
>>> Platforms like Usenet, Email, IRC and Finger allowed us to do everything
>>> we
>>> do now with Facebook and friends. We could post status updates, share
>>> pictures, send messages, etc. Yet, these platforms have been more or less
>>> abandoned. So the question we need to address is not so much how we can
>>> invent a distributed social platform, but how and why we started from a
>>> fully distributed social platform and replaced it with centralized social
>>> media monopolies.
>>> The answer is quite simple. The early internet was not significantly
>>> capitalist funded, the change in application topology came along with
>>> commercialization, and it is a consequence of the business models
>>> required
>>> by capitalist investors to capture profit.
>>> The business model of social media platforms is surveillance and
>>> behavioral control. The internet's original protocols and architecture
>>> made surveillance and behavioral control more difficult. Once capital
>>> became the dominant source of financing it directed investment toward
>>> centralized platforms, which are better at providing such surveillance
>>> and
>>> control, the original platforms were starved of financing. The
>>> centralized
>>> platforms grew and the decentralized platforms submerged beneath the
>>> rising
>>> tides of the capitalist web.
>>> This is nothing new. This was the same business model that capital
>>> devised
>>> for media in general, such as network television. The customer of network
>>> television is not the viewer, rather the viewer is the product, the
>>> "audience commodity." The real customer is the advertisers and lobby
>>> groups
>>> that want to control this audience.
>>> Network Television didn't provide the surveillance part, so advertisers
>>> needed to employ market research and ratings firms such as Neielson for
>>> that bit. This was a major advantage of social media, richer data from
>>> better surveillance allowed for more effective behavioral control than
>>> ever before possible, using tracking, targeting, machine learning,
>>> behavioral retargeting, among many techniques made possible by the deep
>>> pool of data companies like Facebook and Google have available.
>>> This is not a choice that capitalist made, this is the only way that
>>> profit-driven organizations can provide a public good like a
>>> communication
>>> platform. Capitalist investors must capture profit or lose their capital.
>>> If their platforms can not capture profit, they vanish.
>>> So, if capitalism will not fund free, federated social platforms, what
>>> will? For Moglen's optimistic trajectory to pan out, this implies that
>>> funds can come from the public sector, or from volunteers/donators etc?
>>> But if these sectors where capable of turning the tide on social media
>>> monopolies, wouldn't they have already done so? After all, the internet
>>> started out as a decentralized platform, so it's not like they had to
>>> play
>>> catch-up, they had a significant head start. Yet, you could fill many a
>>> curio case with technologies dreamed up and abandoned because they where
>>> unable to be sustained without financing.
>>> http://www.dmytri.info/**privacy-moglen-ioerror-rp12/<http://www.dmytri.info/privacy-moglen-ioerror-rp12/>
>>> Give the continuous march of neoliberal public sector retrenchment, the
>>> austerity craze and the ever increasing precariousness of most
>>> communities, it seems unlikely the public or voluntary sectors will be
>>> the
>>> source of such a dramatic turnaround. Given the general tendency of
>>> capitalist economies toward accumulation and consolidation, such a
>>> turnaround seems even less likely.
>>> Thus, there is no real reason to believe Moglen's trajectory will come
>>> about. The obstacle to decentralized social media is not that it has not
>>> been invented, but the profit-motive itself. Thus to reverse this
>>> trajectory back towards decentralization, requires not so much technical
>>> initiative, but political struggle.
>>> So long as we maintain the social choice to provision our communication
>>> systems according to the profit motive,  we will only get communications
>>> platforms that allow for the capture of profit. Free, open systems, that
>>> neither surveil, nor control, nor exclude, will not be funded, as they do
>>> not provide the mechanisms required to capture profit.
>>> Facebook is worth billions precisely because of it's capacity for
>>> surveillance and control. Same with Google.
>>> Thus, like the struggle for other public goods, like education, child
>>> care, and health care, free communication platforms for the masses can
>>> only come from collective political struggle to achieve such platforms.
>>> In the meantime, we have many clever and dedicated people contributing to
>>> inventing alternative platforms, and these platforms can be very
>>> important
>>> and worthwhile for the minority that will ever use them, but we do not
>>> have
>>> the social will nor capacity to bring these platforms to the masses, and
>>> given the dominance of capital in our society, it's not clear where such
>>> capacity will come from.
>>> As surveillance and control is enforced by the powerful interests of
>>> capital, privacy and autonomy become a question of power and privilege,
>>> not just consumer choice.
>>> It's not simply a question of choosing to use certain platforms over
>>> others, it's not a question of openness and visibility being the new way
>>> people live in a networked society. Rather it's a fact that our platforms
>>> are financed for the purpose of watching people and pushing them to
>>> behave
>>> in ways that benefit the operators of the platform and their real
>>> customers, the advertisers, and the industrial and political lobbies. The
>>> platform exists to shape society according to the interests of these
>>> advertisers and lobbies.
>>> As such, how coercive these platforms are largely depend on the degree to
>>> which your behaviour is aligned with the platform-operators'
>>> profit-driven
>>> objectives, and thus privacy and autonomy is not just a feature any given
>>> platforms my or may not offer, but determine the possibility of
>>> resistance,
>>> determine our ability to work against powerful interests' efforts to
>>> shape
>>> society in ways we disagree with. As Jake said at our talk "We can't have
>>> post-privacy until we are
>>> post-privilege"http://www.**dmytri.info/privacy-moglen-**ioerror-rp12/<http://www.dmytri.info/privacy-moglen-ioerror-rp12/>
>>> Eliminating privilege is a political struggle, not a technical one.
>>> I'll be at Stammtisch as usual around 9pm, please come by, anybody still
>>> hanging around after #rp12 is more than welcome to join us. You can find
>>> us
>>> here: http://bit.ly/buchhandlung
>>> A sharable version of this text can be found here:
>>> http://www.dmytri.info/**privacy-moglen-ioerror-rp12/<http://www.dmytri.info/privacy-moglen-ioerror-rp12/>
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