Simple question: Who owns “Us”?
In other words – who owns my profile, who owns your profile?
How about Facebook?
Or perhaps Google owns it.
Why is it we are being convinced that someone else, some other company, is best suited to look after our online profiles?
Why is it that we are so willing to hand over the keys to our lives to some company?
Another simple question: How much is your life history, your desires, your dreams, your failures, your travels (both online and offline) worth to you? Is there even a price you can put on them?
In other words – are you willing to sell your ever evolving life’s story to the lowest bidder?
We don’t think much about our profiles when it comes to living online but it is those profiles that are our life story. They are integral to who we are, what we do, and most importantly to our identity. Yet we treat this life story with the most cavalier of attitudes. We hand it over to companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google without the slightest comprehension of what it is we are giving away.
We are letting companies dictate what can be done with those stories, with our identities. Do we really place such little value in our own worth that we believe that these companies know better?
Rob Diana had an interesting post today where he suggested that by Facebook becoming more open it would allow us to become more decentralized once again. I could deviate into a discussion about how Facebook’s version of open is actually far from being truly open but that isn’t my intent here. Rather it was a section in his post where he was talking about how he disagreed with Blaine Cook’s assessment that “centralization of identity is stifling innovation on the web”.
I also disagree with Blaine’s assessment but at the same time I disagree with the idea that decentralization is any answer. Instead I believe we are looking at the whole centralization concept from the wrong perspective. As Rob points out there are a lot of companies looking at this problem in order to provide their version of a solution.
Except that is the problem – it is companies looking for solutions because it behooves them to get as many people using their systems. Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to managing our profiles. Those profiles are a literal treasure trove waiting to be mined and used but returning very little of value to us – the real owners of those profiles.
Vast fortunes are being made from our profiles. CEO’s are being paid more money than just about any of use will see in a lifetime. Start-up founders are counting on being able to tap into that vast fountain of profiles to set themselves up for life.
What do we get out of this Faustian arrangement?
We get our trust constantly abused. We get to play mind-numbing games that constantly entice us to spend money for nothing while at the same time our very actions are being data mined as we play. We get to have totally useless, and gamed, advertising thrown at us based supposedly on things we done on the web. We get to be the guinea pigs in the ongoing experiment to better use our profiles and convince us all that we need to make even more available through our profiles held by these companies.
We have no control over our profiles, our identities, because it is these companies who decide how, where, and for how much our identities are worth.
Yes there needs to be centralization of our identities but it is or rather it must be one that we control through simple and easy to understand methods. We should be the ones in control of who gets to use what and how much it is worth. We have to realize that we are the ones in the driver’s seat because without our profiles, our identities none of these companies would be worth a single dime.
Our identities are the most valuable commodity on the Internet and they should always be within our control.
We are the Web.
Too bad we have forgotten that.
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