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GNU is Not Unix Privacy Social Networks News

Free Software To Save Us From Social Networks 249

Posted by kdawson
from the wall-warts-unite dept.
Glyn Moody writes "Here's a problem for free software: most social networks are built using it, yet through their constant monitoring of users they do little to promote freedom. Eben Moglen, General Counsel of the Free Software Foundation for 13 years, and the legal brains behind several versions of the GNU GPL, thinks that the free software world needs to fix this with a major new hardware+software project. 'The most attractive hardware is the ultra-small, ARM-based, plug it into the wall, wall-wart server. [Such] an object can be sold to people at a very low one-time price, and brought home and plugged into an electrical outlet and plugged into a wall jack for the Ethernet, and you're done. It comes up, it gets configured through your Web browser on whatever machine you want to have in the apartment with it, and it goes and fetches all your social networking data from all the social networking applications, closing all your accounts. It backs itself up in an encrypted way to your friends' plugs, so that everybody is secure in the way that would be best for them, by having their friends holding the secure version of their data.' Could such a plan work, or is it simply too late to get people to give up their Facebook accounts for something that gives them more freedom?"
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Free Software To Save Us From Social Networks

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  • Sheeple (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CranberryKing (776846) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:29PM (#31543244)
    It's a fabulous idea. Sign me up. However in terms of penetration, it will be the rare paranoid slashdot reader that values privacy enough to take such measures. Social networking is here to stay and is possibly the most effective tool for destroying freedom. Why should the NSA go after people when they can simply get the people to come to them?
  • by calibre-not-output (1736770) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:30PM (#31543262) Homepage
    More than that, they don't care about their online privacy either.
  • by lgarner (694957) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:30PM (#31543274)

    So, you've got all your personal data backed up from Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, whatever, and your accounts are closed. Now what? Does this thing actually run a usable social networking site? And, even if it does, is it one that everyone will want to use?

    I don't see this happening, ever.

  • by skids (119237) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:34PM (#31543354) Homepage

    What people might care about is a way to build up a "friend list" across websites. That could serve as both a filter-out-the-trolls convenience, and eventually an actual trust network.

    Some sort of FF plugin that allows you to rate userids or even individual content items, share your ratings anonymously, join or administer a "tag team" that aggregates ratings from people with similar interests, and pull in ratings from other people. But to make it worth using it would have to be a hotkeyed mode that overlays a live website session and gives you mouseovers and easy dropdown actions.

    The pain would be keeping individual website profiles up to date as the developers for those sites are constantly changing their markup. But then, a good number are running on a small number of CMS/forum systems without entirely that much customization.

    Trying to get people to buy a "wall wart server" is a decade away, a futile attempt to stay the "cloud computing" fad. The best effort is something that people would actually want to use, and through using, makes them more security conscious. "Cloud computing" will just have to run its course.

  • Re:Too late? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thms (1339227) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:38PM (#31543414)

    Maybe. This kind of P2P social networking could take off if a certain biG company took up this idea ran with it. Not that this would improve the currently horrible privacy situation. But for bells and whistles they could piggyback another P2P technology on top if it (for your pictures and family videos!), and auto-harvest/safe your data from facebook.

    If these wall plugs are fast enough, they could provide CPU time and crawl the net in the meantime while someone else pays the electricity bill. And if all your internet traffic goes through it as well...
    I think i better stop giving them ideas.

    P.S.: How decentralized can this Wave thing actually run, it seemed like an interesting concept.

  • Re:Uhh... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:39PM (#31543424)

    Ya.....
    I'm looking at the summary and I cannot for the world of me work out why the wall wart crap is part of the idea at all.
    It just adds a pointless layer of complexity to an already overly complex idea.

  • I have no Facebook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by improfane (855034) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:22PM (#31544028) Journal

    I deleted my Facebook. Everyone asks me why, here's why:

    • Privacy: I do not like the fact my photographs are available and indexed by my own name. Someone could find out everywhere I have been based on the album, the photo and the dates.
    • Shallowness
    • The quality of communication on Facebook is poor. The most indepth conversation you can have is what someone is doing and what they have done. You are not promoted to have an intellectual debate (Read: Why the hell am I on Slashdot then?) I much prefer to use email although If my email clients were more like how you send messages to people on Facebook it would make me very happy.

    • Trendy
    • The people on Facebook for me are the wannabe trendy people. One or two years ago I tried to get my friends to join Multiply, it focused on contribution of blog postings, news, links, pictures and videos. It was difficult to get people to contribute things that were worthwhile.

    • Cloud storage
    • All your messages and photographs are stored remotely. Facebook also converts your photographs downward in quality and makes them easier to share with people so most people only ever see the low quality pictures. In other words, it's not a lossless backup medium. At least with email, my email may be hosted but I can still download my own copies.

    • Excessive Openness
    • : You could set your privacy settings very high but your friends will give you away. At least one of your friends will have settings that expose their list of friends, including you. This means people can deduce your whereabouts and who you know quite easily. Another thing is that if public search results are enabled by your friends, you can still be exposed through Google search there! If I were an employment agency, it would be trivial to make friends with one of your application or request happy friends (such as a distant young relative) who accept any request that comes their way. If your privacy settings are set to 'Friends of Friends', I see practically everything. Anyone in the same network has the 'right' to see everything about you.
    • Keyboard unfriendly
    • I may be a Windows user but I love keyboard control, I write this in VIM and my mail client is ALPINE.

    • Slow
    • On all the browsers I have used Facebook is slow. I underclock my laptop and it's annoying to have to return to normal speed just to use a website.

    • Developers
    • Mark Zuckerburg is not very nice. I do not believe in software patents but apparently he stole ideas from his fellow classmates. You can understand if you had an idea and someone stole it, without giving you credit. Zuckerberg sued by classmates [guardian.co.uk]. When some of the Facebook PHP code was leaked (Revealing Errors, Facebook source [revealingerrors.com], it was rather disturbing what was written: 'put hotties there'. Also the news that the master password was once 'Chuck Norris' (master password [mydigitallife.co.za]) is rather disturbing. I do not think the developers are competetent. Especially something as privacy critical.

    • Abuse
    • The potential for abuse in Facebook is huge. Law enforcements can request practically all data about you see this Cryptome leaked document [cryptome.org]. The amount of marketing information they can collect on you is more than anywhere else, they have your profiles, your fan pages, browsing habits and internet usage patterns.

    • Applications
    • The applications are ins

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday March 19, 2010 @09:13PM (#31546364) Homepage

    Today social networks, tomorrow the world! No, I'm serious... wouldn't it be great if you had something like that and could apply it not just to Facebook and MySpace but to things like, ohhh... your medical records? Credit history? Credit card purchase history? What magazines you subscribe to? Whether you checked in to that hotel as one or two occupants?

    Yeah, but it's a total pipe dream.

  • Go ALL the way. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crhylove (205956) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Friday March 19, 2010 @10:39PM (#31546834) Homepage Journal

    This could definitely work. But nix the ethernet jack, give it wifi, and a rechargeable battery. Make it the same as an ipad in form factor, but on FOSS OS.

    While you're at it, I have ideas for the new FOSS OS/Social Network:

    First, don't close your FB MS and other social network accounts. Leave them open, and automagically allow all of your friends updates etc. to come over as if they were native. There will always be some friend who is stuck in the dark ages on geocities that you might need to still talk to (that example was intentionally bad).

    Second, we need a more intuitive interface. Clone FaceBook and MySpace exactly, and set those as options, but then also make a vastly superior interface. I would use one of the many great GPL'ed 3d engines, such as ioquake3. Then let everyone's webcam build a custom 3d avatar based on their actual face/body, and have their avatars be able to interact real time on screen, complete with real time 3d positioned VOIP. Of course this functionality could be turned on or off with a simple mouse click.

    In addition, allow a 3rd party plugin system that can create whole new 3d experiences in this virtual world. Build a couple of fast easy ones right in: Chess, checkers, Cards..... And allow anyone to autmagically sign on to their FB, MS, email, IRC, AIM, hotmail, yahoo, or etc. and be able to talk with, and PLAY a card game with as many of their other friends as are currently online.

    Third, make all the tools to interact very, very easy to do from an android phone. Pictures, Audio and Videos should be able to be uploaded instantly, and in open formats like .PNG and .OGG. In addition, Video and Audio should be possible to broadcast real time, to any other user with a FOSSpace account.

    With this design, you could easily supplant YouTube, Picasa, MySpace, Facebook, and all other social networking sites, very quickly. In addition, as most people would only require this and a Firefox plugin, you could also supplant Mac and Windows, virtually over night.

    The final part of my plan to supplant corporations with personal freedom involves replacing the ISPs. With a system of FOSS routers and repeaters, and with all devices and phones acting as potential relays for a truly open ad hoc networking system, we could easily rest control of the entire internet from corporations and governments and truly begin a world of freedom and open information for all.

    Other "Plugins" that I would like to see implemented in the 3d virtual space:
    Boggle
    SNES emu
    N64 emu
    NES emu
    Sega emu
    Mame emu
    Urban Terror Portal (just walk your avatar into a door to join a server)
    Wow Portal (though I'd like to replace WoW with a FOSS clone ASAP.
    GTA San Andreas Portal (this would require a whole new FOSS clone of the original game. Lots of work this bit.)
    Civ 2 emu. Something you could play real time with your friends in VOIP conversation still. And a Civ 2 clone because it was more fun than later version.
    Real Time Music Collaboration tools. A jack for your guitar/bass/keys/violin/drums to hook up directly and allow your instrument to be heard real time while your avatar moves real time to play exactly as you are playing. This would make rehearsal SO MUCH BETTER for me in both of my bands.

    Do all of this, you could beat apple and their iphone, you could beat skype, you could beat windows, you could beat myspace, facebook, and even google.

    I'm willing to beta test.

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