Watch out, Valencia.

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The decon crew are on their way to Valencia this afternoon for a weekend of sight-seeing, sunbathing, cultural persuits and maybe a drink or two. If you hear any stories of this lovely coastside town being invaded by helvetica clad warriors, don’t worry, we’re leaving on Sunday, hangovers in tow. I’m (frustratingly) not taking a camera as my digital compact is dead. I might buy a couple of disposables and go old school.

Open Rights Group, Zittrain and Facebook Regulation

Flickr image from arcticpenguin used under a CC License

I was in the audience for last night’s debate between Professor Jonathan Zittrain and Bill Thompson, on the subject of his new book “The Future of the Internet and what we can do to stop it“, hosted by Becky Hogge and the good people at the Open Rights Group. Having not read the book yet, there was fortunately a primer into his concerns over the “inevitable” reduction in freedoms we currently enjoy online, whether those freedoms come from threats such as malicious cracking, viruses and spam, tethered platforms, regulatory bodies or walled garden / happy valley situations like Facebook. Its a very interesting topic of debate, and I look forward to reading the book when the postman brings it next week. I can’t help feeling that some of Professor Zittrain’s points were a little ‘fear culture’ish to make people aware of the issues – in the same way that the instigator of the Y2K stories played up the significance of the problem to make sure it reached a wider audience (but of course turned into a media/social frenzy), but there is definately a great deal of truth in some of the points raised by both Bill, Johnathan and some of the questions posed by the audience. I’m not going to say anything more until i’ve read the book though, and he was an extremely interesting speaker – I can’t help thinking it will provide an interesting follow on from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody which i’m reading currently.

As if by some form of perfectly organised timing though, RWW and the Guardian are running articles today about the public’s desire for some form of regulation into social networks like Facebook. I realised last night that regulation does not always have to mean restriction, and Sir Christopher Meyer of the PPC’s comment that “There is a need for public awareness about what can happen to information once it is voluntarily put into the public domain,” is absolutely correct, but I’m not sure that means OFCOM need to step in.

‘Public’ conversations in real life are aimed at the person or people you’re standing next to in your social circle and they can be overheard, but social norms mean we tend not to listen too intently to a mobile conversation taking place next to you. However, online, the flawless reproducability of digital conversations which also take place in this “public” arena added to the thought that a conversation online is therefore for “public consumption” make for bad juju. You wouldn’t photograph or record someone sitting opposite you on the train, but you might happily link to their twitter conversation, and that is quite a social disconnect. I think that might, in time, change, but whilst we’re learning new social mores to deal with this public/private dichotomy, self regulation is far more practical and relevant.

If you don’t want people to see it, don’t post it – even if you have privacy turned up to 11. That’s the rule. There are enough channels to privately get something from A to B without resorting to Facebook or similar, and that is about education. Teens are extremely savvy when it comes to privacy and posting on their social spaces, us adults are less aware. The Guardian article mentions journalists facebook doorstepping and whilst I can totally see how invasions of privacy are upsetting, if you’ve posted something on Facebook and haven’t considered who can access that, is that really private?

If regulation is placed on the social networks, it should be security focussed, imposing penalties for flaws in the code and the ability for crackers to get in and show supposed ‘private’ content, not user regulation.

Update: You can listen to an audio recording of the debate over at the Open Rights Group site. You might even be able to hear me ask about sewers.