A quartet of four high-profile bloggers and shakers in the social media sphere have come up with a Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web. It looks like they’re trying to put a decent start toward acknowledging that users should be the ones who control their personal information, rather than the network.
The foundation of this manifesto is a three-pronged stool around personal information: Ownership, Control, and Freedom to grant access. It goes on to define certain elements that any supporting network will include; namely, the ability to syndicate data and friends lists outside the site, to link from profiles to external indentifiers, and to discover other contacts via those external identifiers.
It sounds great in theory, but how will it work in practice? For example, who will determine the standard for open data formats? What is the benefit to site operators in adopting this? What about laws like HIPAA, which would bar health-related social networks from adopting these standards because of the requirement to protect the identity and personal information of their users. Unfortunately, the government has placed the responsibility for protection of information in the hands of the site operator rather than the user. Would those networks then be penalized or considered to be walled gardens by virtue of their forced compliance with the law?
How would this square with current social networks who have the policy of identifying and reporting sexual predators? (I’m thinking specifically of the first and second prongs here: control and ownership. Under this document, how do site operators address the question of content created which is either illegal or outside of their allowable content boundaries if a user has control over the activity stream of their content? Or on the other side, if users have control over that activity stream, what tools will they have, if any, to prevent theft of that content or limit how it is used?
Still, a great start. I’d like to see more focus on the idea of identity and how that fits into this document and I’d also like to see a reciprocal document which holds users to a minimum standard of conduct and behavior as well that’s actually enforceable.
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