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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:23PM (#31543136)

    ....and suggest that most people don't care.

    • by Carik (205890)

      You beat me to it. Most people don't give a damn about "free software", they just want to have their stuff work. That goes for social networks, too. People want their social network to do what it's supposed to do (whatever that is... I still haven't figured out the point, if there is one), and they don't really care what software it runs on.

      • 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 Dishevel (1105119) * on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:50PM (#31543586)
          What people do care about is letting me know they have acquired a purple pony. They care ALOT about that.
        • by spazdor (902907) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:52PM (#31543618)

          More than that, they are endeavouring specifically against their online privacy.

          Grandparent comment said "still haven't figured out the point, if there is one", and you have indirectly advanced it.

          Facebook exists for the express purpose of escaping anonymity and privacy. That is just what personal publishing is.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LordKazan (558383)

          It isn't that they don't care about "online privacy", it is that they've joined a site specifically to share certain information. Any information they post on Facebook, etc is clearly information they're ok with Having in public.

          My profile on FB has a lot less information than most other peoples. Does that mean I don't care about my online privacy? no, I just don't care if people know that I like Belegarth MCS, and Dungeons and Dragons.

          Facebook is essentially public space, don't expect things you do in pu

          • You disregard your privacy precisely to the extent of the information you share on Facebook. I also have a minimum-disclosure FB account. Pardon me if I wasn't clear. :)

            Still, many people share much more with strangers online than they'd share with strangers offline, and among these, several do so because they don't fully understand/care about the risks of what they're doing. So they obviously won't buy this thing, even if they're told exactly what it does.
        • More than that, they don't care about their online privacy either.

          Whether or not they care, in some kind of general sense, about "online privacy", they are certainly using social networking systems specifically because they wish to share some things, not keep them private.

      • 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.

        • by skids (119237) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:51PM (#31543594) Homepage

          Gah posting off the top of my head there and skipped over the topicality which is this:

          These people need to focus on building popular projects that aren't purist, but which develop the building blocks for a system much like what they are describing. Facebook got people started on building trust networks, for a lax definition of the term. The next step is something like that, which is cross-site, has minimal centralized services, and allows the "backup-encrypted-to-a-friends system" aspect. Trust lists are small enough to make that acheivable as a peer-to-peer application in a browser plugin, which is why I suggested it. Then comes spoof protection (did X actually post this?) which gets people into digital signatures.

          It has to be candy coated to get people to care.

        • One idea I've seen suggested and I've repeated here before is a trust metric that gives higher credence to ratings from users that rate other people similarly to the way you rate them.

          This makes it harder for individuals to game the system.

          I have been toying with the idea of such a system but including the opposing concepts of an anonymous profile, and CA verified 'real person' with public/private keys.

        • 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.

          You might addressing a different matter entirely. The popularity of social networks relies on the fact you are in contact with real, identifiable people with whom you are social with. Facebook provides identity, not trust.

          The problem is that geeks have always treated this like some cypherpunk/l33t haXor problem where the goal is to establish credibility points for their anonymous "NinjaPenguin69" online alter-ego. Facebook took the much simplier route and just put a picture next to your name and makes the "

        • 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.

          I'd call it a bit more than a fad right now. eePCs are very common and cheap devices, and everyone I know who has one is very happy with it. They don't need the raw horsepower that a gamer or developer do, and the price is right. Plus, they run Linux. While the whole "network computing" thing was a fad in the late nineties, there was very little in the line of network services. Now there's YouTube, Facebook, Google Apps, Windows Live and Lord knows what else. Further, most people have a home network now, ha

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          Trying to get people to buy a "wall wart server" is a decade away

          not so - there are a lot of them and networked to the internet. They're NMT devices - network streamers. you plug one into your home network (ie ethernet it to your router) and then you can watch your legitimately downloaded movies on your TV, plus Youtube and some of them iPlayer etc.

          It wouldn't be a huge leap forward to enhance their firmwares with more internet-based services. Some already have a bittorrent client, some have streaming off t

      • by TikiTDO (759782)

        The system in the article seems to require that you know all of your friends first, so it would be about as useful as a newsgroup or forum. It's an interesting concept, but the proposed implementation would be a step back in internet social evolution.

        Social networks do exactly what their name suggests; aggregate your social interaction into a single location. This is actually quite a useful service for most people, as it saves them the hassle of keeping track of all of this information themselves. It also k

    • Not only do most users not care- but the few who do aren't going to want an either-or system that blocks out their friends who are less technically adept.

      " and it goes and fetches all your social networking data from all the social networking applications, closing all your accounts."

      Is not a reasonable way to go about it.

      Replace that line with "and it goes and fetches all your social networking data from all the social networking applications, and syncs it daily, giving you an always-on local server *combining* updates from several social networking sites" and I'd consider paying up to $500 for such a device.

    • by Tiger4 (840741)

      Yep. Everybody wants Freedom. And Security. Ask them and they always say they do. But when it comes right down to it, they don't really care that much about it. Certainly you can't get most people to pay for it (would you pay $1 for this encryption...?) And getting them to understand even the most basic principles of how to be secure is an infinite task. When you hear people say, "I don't want people looking at all my information on Myspace/Facebook/etc." you have to wonder why they put it out there i

  • Uhh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:24PM (#31543146) Homepage Journal

    You mean people would actually have to SPEND MONEY? And even worse, on an actual PHYSICAL OBJECT? No way, not in a million years would something like this replace a simple, free online service.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jazz-Masta (240659)

      If only we already had devices that we could hook up to a wall socket, plug into an ethernet port, and configure with a web browser...

      If only we could invent some sort of encrypted storage area for our social networking information...

      If only we could adapt these useless boxes...the ones we have hundreds of millions of already, to do the same thing. What are they called? Computers? Hah! They aren't powerful enough to do what the OP is talking. No way.

      Oh well, we can dream, one day.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by HungryHobo (1314109)

        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.

        • by kwalker (1383)

          Really? I would think that's the easiest part to understand. Your device controls your data. Period. Otherwise it's not really your data. It being your server, you can actually decide which external accounts (other friends) get access to particular data. You can sort of ape that setup on existing social networking sites, but since they don't run on your hardware, the admins of those sites have access to everything you have posted on there, regardless of (lack of) access controls.

          Think about all the stories

      • by tepples (727027)

        If only we already had devices that we could hook up to a wall socket, plug into an ethernet port, and configure with a web browser

        If only we had home ISPs that didn't block inbound HTTP connections.

    • Small, headless, set top size, external usb storage

      Running:
      tinc
      web proxy
      samba/gnutella
      Myth

      some other stuff maybe.

      Course. I can build my own easily & as you say, I doubt anyone else needs anything similar.

    • by Idbar (1034346)

      In the future several people will have access to those devices. They will hold a list of your friends, your messages, your pictures, your favorite music and a bunch load of other information. You'll be able to type messages and send them to your friends, or make voice... maybe even video chats. People will refer to them as cell-phones.

      Now, what about adding a webserver and let you contacts have remote access to a limited amount of that information?

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snarfies (115214) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:25PM (#31543162) Homepage

    Seriously, its a dumb plan. My girlfriend is on Facebook, and I'm pretty sure she would have the following objections:

    1) New people couldn't find her.
    2) This new plan is already WAY too complicated. She can't point a browser at some weird piece of hardware that she has to install herself, no matter how "easy" it is to install or point to.
    3) She can't play with her facebook farm(s).

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Yes but... umm ... I got noting.
    • Seriously, its a dumb plan. My girlfriend is on Facebook, and I'm pretty sure she would have the following objections:

      1) New people couldn't find her.
      2) This new plan is already WAY too complicated. She can't point a browser at some weird piece of hardware that she has to install herself, no matter how "easy" it is to install or point to.
      3) She can't play with her facebook farm(s).

      What about 4) Who's going to randomly click on the cute pics that turn up while I play 'Facebook Roulette'?

    • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Bri3D (584578) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:35PM (#31543370) Journal

      This just doesn't make any sense. People who are using a social network are using a social network because they want to be found - because they want an easy way to keep in touch with a lot of people. Changing to a darknet model completely eliminates all these benefits. The only people who would buy such a device are people who shouldn't using online social networks anyway (making the import aspect odd).

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        In theory, it's a nice idea. The idea, as I understand it, isn't a darknet, but rather a P2P network. Presumably, there would still have to be some central server that has at least enough information about you to make people discoverable, but the bulk of the data would be on your own machine under your control.

        Want to know what you have to do to make this actually get adoption? Make it also support computer-free VoIP where you plug your home phone network into it, it provides a dial tone, and you use it

    • by epp_b (944299)
      I think those are moot points on the basis that you post on Slashdot and claim to have a girlfriend.
      • I think those are moot points on the basis that you post on Slashdot and claim to have a girlfriend.

        Beware: there are indeed outliers among us ... and they may be the ones who are reporting our clever-yet-misundertstood posts to the fairer sex. That's the only reason I can think of that Heidi Klum's younger, hotter sister hasn't wandered down these stairs into my parent's basement yet.

    • by K-Man (4117)

      3) Farmville would be happy to make accounts portable. Game makers aren't happy about being dependent on Facebook either.

  • by pwnies (1034518) <j@jjcm.org> on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:26PM (#31543188) Homepage Journal
    Remember that facebook is now the #1 site when it comes to traffic. You aren't going to get it's 500 million or so users to migrate to a self configurable system simply in the name of privacy. What percentage of the users on facebook actually care? On quarter of one percent? Even that would be a stretch. People aren't going to leave their hard earned farmville accounts because facebook is using their personal data to market to them. It's not a concern in this day and age.
    • Ya.
      They're on facebook, they don't want to be private or anonymous.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jwietelmann (1220240)

      Remember that facebook is now the #1 site when it comes to traffic.

      No, it's not. Lest you forget, those "traffic" stats came with many qualifiers and caviats, which basically rendered the whole "OMG Facebook got more traffic than Google!" assertion false. (Of course, that didn't stop Katie Couric from reporting as a fact, with no reference to said qualifiers and caveats.)

      I don't really take issue with what you're saying here. I just wanted to point out that the report was bogus, and we of all internet communities should not parrot it.

    • Remember that facebook is now the #1 site when it comes to traffic.

      Only when you ignore, IIRC, ~40% of Google's traffic; Google is far ahead of Facebook, except when you exclude Google's "non-search properties".

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        "Remember that facebook is now the #1 site when it comes to traffic."

        I've bolded the key word here for you. YouTube, for example, is not the same "site" as Google even though both are owned by the same company. You can tell because when you're on the YouTube site your browser address bar will say "youtube.com" or similar, while when you're on the main Google site your browser address bar will say "google.com" (variations for different countries).

  • is it simply too late to get people to give up their Facebook accounts for something that gives them more freedom?

    Yes.

    • 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.

      • a certain biG company

        I see what you did there...

        and I don’t think it’ll go over well.

        Seriously? Google? “improve the currently horrible privacy situation”?

        • by thms (1339227)

          Yes, I think Google Corp. will be the savior of us all! Not! Re-reading my comment, I actually wrote "Not that this would improve the currently horrible privacy situation.", vulgo: worsen.

          It's always darkest just before it gets pitch black.

          But I do thing the biG was smart, I hope it catches on like the M$ did! =) (btw, how did we spell IBM back then?)

  • Sheeple (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CranberryKing (776846)
    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?
  • "freedom" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sub Zero 992 (947972) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:29PM (#31543246) Homepage

    I am getting pretty tired of other people telling me what freedom should mean to me.

    What freedom means to me, what I am frightened of and / or prepared to sacrifice is not a temporally static concept. 10 years ago I wouldn't even publish my mail address online. Now I have my entire cv on xing. These are rational decisions I made according to costs I perceive (correctly or not) with publishing personal information, or not.

    Sure, some people make poor choices about publishing personal information (sexting, anyone?). But some times openness is an indicator for a "safe" society.

    Just my thoughts.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      People seem to confused the "freedom" "slavery" continuum with the "privacy" "openness" continuum.

      There's no contradiction in Facebook being build using free software, and then being completely open with people's data.

    • by guanxi (216397)

      I am getting pretty tired of other people telling me what freedom should mean to me.

      Your choice to use Facebook has nothing to do with freedom. You are free to use Microsoft Word, but it's not Free Software. Freedom and "Free software" have specific meanings, whether or not you choose to care about them.

      Will the fact that Facebook is not FOSS have an big impact on your life or on others? It's not a matter of opinion; it will or it won't no matter how you feel about it. I will say this: Society is almost alw

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Uh, no. His choice to use Facebook has everything to do with freedom. He is free to choose to use Facebook. Or not.

        Microsoft Word not being "Free" software might, depending on how paranoid you are and how much you listen to Stallman, have certain ramifications, mostly abstract for most people at this time, for his freedom. His having the choice to use or not use MS Word is a direct and tangible result of his level of freedom.

        "Freedom is not that you can do what you want, but that the people you dislike

  • Free vs Free (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Thyamine (531612) <[moc.snogardfo] [ta] [enimayht]> on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:29PM (#31543250) Homepage Journal
    Let's just go with how the conversation with any non-geek person/friend/spouse/family member would both start and end: Wait, Facebook already is free. I don't get it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Spewns (1599743)

      Let's just go with how the conversation with any non-geek person/friend/spouse/family member would both start and end: Wait, Facebook already is free. I don't get it.

      And watch them uncomfortably smile and nod and say "ah" when you come off sounding like a lunatic trying to explain the four freedoms of free software. Make sure you refer to them as freedoms 0-3 too. And when they don't get that clever joke, you can explain arrays to them.

  • by Sowelu (713889) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:30PM (#31543256)
    Who the hell would use this? How many people are really that desperate to escape social networks? People who REALLY didn't want them would never have signed up in the first place. People who used to like them and don't anymore, can just spend a couple hours tracking it all down. Mightn't people who use this want to customize its exact effects? Isn't the easiest way to do that...to just close your accounts yourself?

    This sounds like something a sixth-grader would come up with...
  • Doesn't make sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by guspasho (941623) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:30PM (#31543268)

    The problem is free software is used to voluntarily erode privacy rights.

    Not anymore! Now we have a server that looks like a night-light, just plug it in and it will do all your social networking for you! It's magic! No longer will you have to give up your privacy rights! ...

    Do I have the argument right?

    • by ianezz (31449)
      In a nutshell, I understand it as
      • run your own server in your home;
      • keep your data on it (on encrypted storage) instead of keeping it in some remote datacenter;
      • use a policy to carefully select who can access to it (i.e. your friends);
      • in case of emergency, unplug it from the wall;
      • encrypted backups go onto your friend's servers.

      Basically, Freenet on a wall-plug computer.

      • Maybe I'm just being dense, but how, exactly, would this be different than the web server I already have in my garage?
        • run your own server in your home;

          Check.

        • keep your data on it (on encrypted storage) instead of keeping it in some remote datacenter;

          Well, I haven't bothered to encrypt it, but I could if I wanted to.

        • use a policy to carefully select who can access to it (i.e. your friends);

          Check. Private information is password protected; public information is open to the world.

        • in case of emergency, unplug it from the wall;

          Check. In fact, it's unplugged right now, but due to household maintenance rather than an emergency.

        • encrypted backups go onto your friend's servers.

          Check, although the data isn't encrypted at the remote sites. It was copied via SSH so the transport was encrypted, but si

  • 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.

  • Freedom? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Glendale2x (210533) <<slashdot> <at> <ninjamonkey.us>> on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:30PM (#31543280) Homepage

    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?

    This plan assumes that your average Facebook user wants freedom and/or privacy.

    • More to the point, it assumes that the average Facebook user even perceives a privacy or freedom issue; even those that do care may simply be unaware of the implications that Facebook use carries.
  • Too late (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BigSlowTarget (325940) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:31PM (#31543282) Journal

    The network effect has already kicked in. If you want to replace Facebook it will have to be with a product that offers more value on an individual user basis AND can interface with Facebook so users will have access to those social networks as well as access to the additional functionality. If you start there you can wean people off of the older application. While the approach you describe may give users more freedom from corporate/government/whoever control it gives them less freedom to do the activities they now do on the social networking site.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:33PM (#31543322) Homepage

    So what is this "your data" that he wants to fetch? I don't think most people are aware of having any "data" on social networks. Their favorite bands, their favorite movies... that's not "data," it's information about themselves that they post to social networks because they want other people to know it.

    The problem with commercial social networks is their interpretation of what "your data" is. The stuff they're interested in has less to do with whether you say you like Blink 182 and more to do with who all your friends are, how often you communicate with them, what keywords show up most often in your posts, what groups you join and who else is in them, and all that other stuff that can be data-mined. In other words, it's the record of your social interactions that's the "data" -- so why would you want to preserve that in a brand-new network?

    • It's weird because I described almost the same idea to someone about 2 days ago (without the goofy server appliance part; in my version people had it built into their UMPCs and set-top boxes because we're all going to have them eventually).

      Basically, it's a p2p overlay network that mimics the social connections you have on site like Facebook. It's a way to free you from bondage to any particular social networking site. You choose who gets to see what because you host your information. Then you could p
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PCM2 (4486)

        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.

    • by guanxi (216397)

      why would you want to preserve that in a brand-new network?

      Because the user would control the data and access to it. The data would be on your computer, not a commercial business' servers.

  • by Luke has no name (1423139) <fox&cyberfoxfire,com> on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:33PM (#31543324)

    I have pondered the idea of a decentralized Social networking protocol, similar to email/Jabber/etc. Standard IM protocols along with standard (XML based?) data formatting for social information would be used to allow socialnetworking servers to talk to each other, and find friends.

    The issue is that SOME sort of centralization is probably best for this kind of online interaction; the question is to what extent your secure content is hosted and in your own control.

    Best option: Don't put private shit in a public place.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by homey1337 (1656791)

      Best option: Don't put private shit in a public place.

      ... which explains Luke's toilet habits.

    • I have pondered the idea of a decentralized Social networking protocol, similar to email/Jabber/etc. Standard IM protocols along with standard (XML based?) data formatting for social information would be used to allow socialnetworking servers to talk to each other, and find friends.

      Plenty of such things exist already. In terms of communications protocols covering parts of this space, you have (among others):

      E-mail
      HTTP
      XMPP
      PubSubHubbub
      Google Wave Federation Protocol
      WebFinger

      For social content, you have (again

  • 1. You'd have to out-Facebook Facebook. Good luck building a better social networking site. Look at the morons at Linked-In and MySpace, they can't get it right and they both had a headstart.
    2. Good luck getting someone to purchase hardware.
    3. Why would anyone think the NSA didn't have a backdoor built into it anyway?
    4. Even most of us geeks long ago gave up caring.

    • by LordKazan (558383)

      to be fare LinkedIn isn't targeted for the same things as Facebook.

      Facebook is a social network.
      LinkedIn is a "professional network" - networking for business/IT/etc professionals.

      they don't have the same stated goals, but both seem to be the best in class for their stated goals.

      I have profiles on both.

      • And MySpace is still arguably better for musicians than Facebook, despite all of its amateurism and chaos.
  • Imagine, if you will, a cross between a Facebook style interface and an Apache style implementation: that is, something that will let you (as a user) connect to any other user and not give a damn about how or where, and at the same time let anyone run their own standards-compliant server with the exact settings that they prefer.

    To get this right, it needs to take a long hard look at user data privacy *as the first thing*, and that's exactly what the Appleseed Project (http://appleseed.sourceforge.net) was i

  • 1)

    Free Software To Save Us From Social Networks

    Who said we WANT to be saved?!?

    2)

    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.

    So basically you want facebook, but torrented?

  • I've been wondering for some time why social networking is not already a priority for the free software movement. The benefits of FOSS, open systems, and putting control in the end users' hands apply just as well to social networking as they do to any other application. It enables innovation (good luck building your own apps based on Facebook), it protects privacy (I know, it's trendy to disregard it so it must not be consequential - like housing prices and .com stocks), enables inter-operability between ap

  • Perhaps my imagination is limited, but I've never thought of the wall-wart as something that might "save me from my Facebook account".

    They don't make a JVM that works on top of the ARM processor, so you're stuck with python, php, and C++. (For its part, Facebook lets you run "Facebook apps".)

    I mostly use it for samba and svn. I do have a webserver set up on the plug but I've never posted a link to it anywhere or I'd be uploading warez and tunez all day.
  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:55PM (#31543672) Homepage

    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.

    So, the people at facebook "constantly monitor users" and "do little to promote freedom"? And we wonder why the FSF is written off as a fringe organization?

  • Social networks are where you go to share information, if there is information on that social network that you don't want in a public place you shouldn't have posted it in the first place.

    Social networks are like public spaces, don't expect anything you do there to be private information.

    The entire idea of privacy on a social network is moronic - that's not what they were designed for. The only things I've put on my FB account are things I'm fine with people knowing.

    Common fucking sense people.

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by david_thornley (598059) on Friday March 19, 2010 @04:59PM (#31543702)

    Speaking as one who uses Free rather than Open Source to characterize software, and admires Richard Stallman....

    Why does every piece of software on the planet need to promote freedom? Isn't it enough that a whole lot of it does? And why shouldn't I feel free to put selected information about myself in the public view? (Seriously, you're all welcome to whatever is on my Facebook account. There are things I don't want the whole world to know about, and they're not on FB. I trust FB to respect my privacy in much the same sense that I trust mousetraps to catch and restrain blue whales, but I don't have to put stuff on it.)

    • by guanxi (216397)

      Why does every piece of software on the planet need to promote freedom? Isn't it enough that a whole lot of it does?

      Is it bad if a major new application is FOSS? I don't understand your objection.

      why shouldn't I feel free to put selected information about myself in the public view?

      Did someone say you shouldn't? A (completely theoretical) FOSS social network would give you more control over what is public and what isn't. You could do whatever you wanted with it.

      • It's cool if a major new application comes out based on Free Software, but that's not what Moglen's saying. He says that social networks, although based on FS, don't promote freedom. While being in favor of freedom, along with truth, justice, and pumpkin pie, it seems to me that having something that isn't intended to promote freedom is not per se a problem.

        Besides, I already have all the control I need to make things public or not. If I don't want it public, it doesn't go on Facebook. My profile is

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Because Stallman believes it is immoral to create software that doesn't live up to his definition of "free." He would like very much to stop everyone from doing so. In other words, Stallman would like to remove everyone's freedom to create software in ways and forms which he doesn't agree with.

  • One word: http://autonomo.us/ [autonomo.us]

    Ok, well, two: http://www.opendefinition.org/ossd/ [opendefinition.org]

    http://wordpress.org/ [wordpress.org] http://status.net/ [status.net] and http://drupalgardens.com/ [drupalgardens.com] are already leading by example.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:04PM (#31543746) Journal

    Cut all the bull out and he wants to go back to homepages. Oh okay, so this homepage is in your home behind the router to your ISP and not on a server at your ISP, but that is what he is talking about.

    And how would you index that? You can't. So you have freenet, the darknet version. A crypto nerds wetdream and unusable.

    The problem is simple. How do I join a network from which I don't know anyone? How do I join your circle of friends, if I don't know any in the circle?

    Darknet has that problem. Yes, you can exchange files but only with people you know from some other means. And then you exchange files only between that small number of nodes and no way is the secret world government that controls everything unable to just listen in on your connection that goes through your ISP who knows you address and see where the packets go. And that is not a problem even, because they can't look inside the package and that works in places like North-Korea and even China were the secret police is just going to give up if they can't read the package they don't want you to send unless they can open them and not just hit you until you confess.

    Crypto nerds, they are like real nerds, but with the practical usage.

    This idea of homepage servers, won't work. Facebook works because it allows you to find people that you lost contact with and even new friends.

    And if he really wants to test it, go ahead. Try "Opera Unite". No need for a silly plug, your own site, right in your own browser.

  • by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:04PM (#31543750)

    Social networking sites are far more than "informatiuon about a few million people". Their value comes from the relationships between those people. This have value to the people themselves, and, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on where one lies on the marketting/privacy divide, to others. It's restricting this access to others and controlling information about one's self, that's the appeal of this device.

    However, maintaining all those relationships distributed across they myriad of individual servers in each home will prove problematic: one essentially has a distributed database. The first issues that come to mind are location services, mapping "friend" links to their wall-wart servers (yes, this is DNS, but do you want to be that visible?), as well as backups. The network traffic involved in simple "friend of friend" graphing starts to get significant.

    In such an environment Facebook would likely spider all the wall-wart servers in a Googlesque manner for (a) marketting, and (b) convenience.

    Still, it's a concept I've pondered for a while: I should control information about me, and who I share it with. Replication and backup becomes a separate problem: perhaps I want some storage service provider to host it... perhaps not: connections to port 25 at a server resolved from my domain name have terminated on a PC in my home for years: if my physical mailbox is outside my house, why should my electronic one not be inside (cursing static IP rental costs aside)?

    In this model, "Facebook" becomes an "app", that people download to their home servers and use to establish and publish relationships between their friends.

  • 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.

    How is this a problem for free software?

    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.

    Um, why?

    'The most attractive hardware is the ultra-small, ARM-based, plug it int

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:07PM (#31543784) Homepage Journal

    It's called the World Wide Web. People hated it because it wasn't constrained and limited enough.

    I am totally serious. It's one of those things (actually a very common phenomenon) where putting constraints on something, opens peoples' eyes as to how it can be used, and makes it seem cooler. But then they forget that they can still do those same things, even without the limitations present. Life is weird.

    • by guanxi (216397)

      It's called the World Wide Web. People hated it because it wasn't constrained and limited enough.

      Excellent point, though I think people didn't use it for social networking because it was too difficult. Facebook is essentially a Content Management System for social networking data, as well as a platform. Probably 99% of their users couldn't make a web page, much less install on their web servers the apps that Facebook provides. But they can update their Facebook pages, which have replaced many people's home

  • Freedom from who?

    Spam kings, civilian police departments and credit scam goons? (Like banks.) Perhaps. But any group with real technology will be able to see through you from the top down no matter what consumer grade electronic solution you employ.

    From that perspective, I don't think people really care about their freedoms. Most of the time, I don't think people realize they are being measured, categorized and manipulated accordingly. It's a fairly convincing illusion we have of freedom, in that the o

  • (Disclaimer: as soon as the word occurred to me I googled "wikisocial" and yep, it's in use. I'm not referring to any of them.)

    A not-for-profit social network built with a "trustworthiness is our middle name" mindset would be appealing. Run by the sort of people who force you to keep a local backup of your data by default. Who take privacy seriously. Who encrypt all the data wherever possible. Who don't sell your profile info to advertisers and marketers. Who'd sooner throw all the hard drives and backup
  • 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

    • There is also the share Microsoft owns which is suspicious and also how it can be used within a police society (say Britain).

      Another thing is how some pictures have ended up being used in marketing materials. Do you want your pictures to be just a URL away from anyone using them for their own purpose, potentially profiting from them?

      I do not see how difficult it would be to write a script that:

      • downloads all your friends photographs
      • run face recognition on your friends, using the DHTML div region to work out
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      • Privacy: I do not like the fact my photographs are available and indexed by my own name.

      So register under a pseudonym. Worried that people will still tag you under your real name? They're probably doing that now, regardless of whether you have an account or not. It's people that are the problem, not Facebook.

      • 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.

      You prefer email, but you wish it was more like Facebook? Try Facebook messaging, it's like email but it's on Facebook. Seriously though, email doesn't promote intellectual debate, it just allows you to contact people. Just like messaging on Facebook does. I've had hugely inane discussions

  • by akb (39826) on Friday March 19, 2010 @05:31PM (#31544148)

    Free Software had first mover advantage over the big brother social network sites but it didn't innovate fast enough. Remember blogs? What happened? The community couldn't agree on standards for providing advanced social applications that people wanted, so the walled gardens sprang up that provided them. Seriously, remember the years of dumb ass bickering over RSS or Atom?

    I personally am very sad that large parts of the social experience online are now within wall gardens, I see it as AOL's revenge from the grave. It says something about the limits of open processes that hopefully the Free Software movement and others can learn from.

  • Even leaving the "who cares?" and "too late anyway" issues aside, this is simply technically unfeasible:

    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.

    I mean, is Mr Moglen familar with concepts such as "NAT" and "private IP address"?

    Maybe lawyers should stick to handling legalese, and techies are the one to deal with such things...

    (I am aware that Moglen was involved at CS at some point, but it was a long time ago, and the world has moved on since then. The same applies to RMS himself, by the way - technology-wise, he still lives in early 90s.)

  • Why should they?

    If you want you can include a "if you use this software you must also believe in & promote the same political/social values I do" clause in your software license. Otherwise stfu.
  • If the vast majority of people with FaceBook/MySpace/Whatever accounts really gave a fuck about their privacy and freedom, they wouldn't have opened accounts in the first place.

    More than a few people I know are "conscientious objectors" and don't have accounts on social network sites. Everyone else knows fully well what they are sharing and don't really care (myself included)

  • Firstly I'm market. For those people asking who would use such a service, I would, anyone who doesn't like facebook but wants to be more conected with friends will like it. I bet many people here would like it, there IS a market for this.

    Ok, let me come up with some ideas.

    - Give it a clear name and tag line. My book, my information, my control.
    - Let me install this in my machine, the wall wart is really nice but it should be an extra.
    - Integrate it with a DNS/url Hosting service!
    a) Give it an option to buy

  • it's about control. read the terms and conditions: whatever you post, you know longer own. Can't complain if it's lost, hijacked, un deletable, accessible by anyone even though you tried to restrict it to "friends", still there in 20 yrs, defaced, misused, resold, repurposed...

  • by nullhero (2983) * on Friday March 19, 2010 @09:50PM (#31546544) Journal
    I've already deleted my Facebook account. Got tired of all the boringness of it all.
  • 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.

"People should have access to the data which you have about them. There should be a process for them to challenge any inaccuracies." -- Arthur Miller

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