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Who Owns Your Social Identity? 190

wjousts writes "Who actually owns your username on a website? What rights do you have to use it? An IEEE Spectrum podcast reports: 'What happens if Facebook or Twitter or, say, your blog hosting service, makes you take a different user name? Sound impossible? It's happened. Last week, a software researcher named Danah Boyd woke up to find her entire blog had disappeared, and in fact, had been renamed, because her hosting service had given her blog's name to someone else.' And as important as they are, what protects our accounts are the terms of service agreements. If you read them — and who does? — you'd learn, probably to no surprise, that they protect the provider a lot more than they protect you."
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Who Owns Your Social Identity?

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  • by Dr.Hair ( 6699 ) on Monday May 09, 2011 @10:33PM (#36078720) Homepage

    Not just money to sue. But a service whose entire revenue model is dependent on customer generated content creating ad impressions is more likely to hand an identity from someone who produces little revenue to one they think will generate more ad impressions. (So you're safer if your social identity is a big traffic generator, say like a Scoble.)

  • Re:money (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09, 2011 @10:42PM (#36078764)
    If you're using a free service, you should expect that if someone comes along and offers to buy your username, they'll get it. I don't know why this would be surprising.
  • Re:money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mellon ( 7048 ) on Monday May 09, 2011 @10:51PM (#36078816) Homepage

    Money is a social construct, which exists by consent. So it isn't accurate to say that money will buy anything. The correct statement is that we consent to allow anything to be bought with money. When the problem is restated this way, the logical consequence is inescapable: only as long as we stand by and allow money to buy anything can it in fact buy anything. If we are not happy with a world in which things work this way, all we need to is withdraw our consent in sufficient numbers to effect change. This is the basis for the rule of law.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:10PM (#36078902)

    >I'm torn on this.

    I'm not. It's a dick move to take someone's content and steal it like this.

    And just because you click on an agreement doesn't mean that all parts of the agreement are valid. There are things called unconscionable terms, which are /never/ valid.

    I would also say that all bullshit clauses that say "this agreement can and will change at any time" are demonstrably unconscionable and any changes made without explicit agreement by both parties are contracts of adhesion, at best.


  • by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:14PM (#36078928) Homepage
    Big hosting companies don't care that it's counterproductive. They have policies.

    Best to buy a domain name for yourself.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @04:09AM (#36080148) Homepage Journal

    So you want that someone who doesn't PAY A DIME for a service GIVEN FOR FREE, to get granted higher rights than the person owning the domain name and infrastructure?

    If you provide a service to the public, whether or not you charge directly for that service, you are taking on certain moral (and in some cases legal) obligations. One of the foremost of those obligations is not to pull the rug out from under people's feet.

    I always wonder if people who say "if you're not taking someone's money you don't owe them anything" apply that principle to their daily lives. Do you refuse to send birthday cards to your family unless they pay you to do it? Do you tell your friend, "sure, I'll give you a ride to the store in an hour," and then, when he calls two hours later asking where you are, laugh at him and tell him how stupid he was to think you'd help him out for free? Do you turn the other way when you see a little kid about to wander out into traffic, because hey, it's not like the little brat's going to pay you to pull him out of the way of an oncoming car? How far are you willing to go in service to this vile principle in which you claim to believe?

  • Re:money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @04:33AM (#36080246) Homepage Journal

    Ah, I see, you're talking about Libertopia Capitalism, which is this wonderful magical system which will take hold and sweep away all this corruption and power-mongering as soon as we get the eeevil gub'mint out of the way. Also, everyone gets a pony.

    All right, back to reality. There is no such thing as capitalism except as it's practiced in the real world, just as there's no such thing as communism except the real-world variety (although, ironically in this context, F/OSS probably comes closer to a utopian Marxist's idea of how things ought to work than anything else ever has.) It's what happens in the real world, to real people, that counts. True believers in any economic ideology are as bad as religious fundamentalists: just as ignorant of the way the world works, just as likely to ride roughshod over people in their pursuit of the way they believe things ought to be, and just as likely to see their prophecies come to fruition.

    Now go away, kid, the grown-ups are talking.

  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @07:11AM (#36080844)

    buy your own domain.

    RTFA. She has-- TFA is on her own domain.. However, there are plenty of online communities one may wish to join (eg, even Slashdot) and prefer to use the same identity (e.g., login name). You have to be a member, with a name, to participate. And thus come under the control of the owners of that service.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!