My second post – Diaspora pods

This is the first time I have actually managed to make two posts to a blog of my own. I sincerely hope there will be more.

People's use of Internet and the Web is more and more becoming a "cloud" experience. Private and public are more and more muddled, where Facebook is maybe the prime example. And no matter how "private" your settings are set on these services, the service owner usually have full view of your stuff, and also may use it for mapping peoples relations and their preferences, so that advertizing can be targeted to the user (the client). All this data can also be sold or given to authorities in various countries, or just plainly demanded by said authorities. It is like having envelopes that are see through for postal office, if not for the mail man.

At the end of the cold war era, in 1988, with glasnost in the Soviet Union, the Swedish comedy/satire group Helt Apropå, made a short sketch. It is quite historical, and contemporary, too. Can be seen on utube:

One can have a cloud of one's own, e.g. mail and web site on a personal account on a hosting provider. In so far as we can trust the hosting company, the data is our own. The catch phrase "cloud services", does not really denote something new, it is just that some "cloud providers" try to convince individuals and corporate and public entities to put their data in someone else's system.

There is also a growing interest in the concept of a federated Web. Instead of one or a few giant so-called "social media" (e.g. Twitter, MSN, Facebook, Google), there are platforms and protocols that are made of free and open software/standards, and there are many independent (commercial, community-run, or personal) nodes which can communicate with each other. E.g. XMPP/Jabber, which is a messaging protocol, used by GoogleTalk, but there are free Jabber servers to apply for an account to. Furthermore, anyone with the right knowledge can set up their own server. I mention on my intro page, and Diaspora, are made by companies, but open and free software, and can be set up by anyone with knowledge and bandwidth.

I really pushed myself starting this blog, because I posted a question on about Diaspora, and what server (called "pod") to choose: lists of pods. I feel a bit lost. I do not want to set up my own, I want it to be in Europe, preferably not too far from Sweden, and also run by trustworthy persons. Trust is a VERY big subject, and even our federal banks rely ultimately on our trust, even if they dress themselves in "scientific" economic terms. So ultimate trust we may only have in ourselves and those near, so having an account on someone elses server requires some trust, some carefulness what one puts on the server, and also if the server will be around and not just go offline for long time (ability to export or backup my own data would be a nice feature). Diaspora is still in Alpha, so it will be a testing anyway. But which server to choose is a tough question. As at least some servers are run by individuals, and they also have to trust the users, so it is mutual. Big companies do not trust us, that's why they have these enormously long EULAs.

I think we need a standardised marking system for how well web and other services cater to our need for privacy and data control/ownership (and I am not talking about copyright here). Some criteria with maybe different degrees of fulfillment. One criteria should be if the protocols are open and license/patent free, another that the software is free or at least open source, ready for inspection, a third who owns what data. Criteria that are easy to read and understand (Creative Commons is quite amazing in this regard). Maybe there are projects dealing with this issue?

And the diminishing extent to which corporations and authorities trust us, the avarage Joe, we must not be too naive in trusting them.

Back to Diaspora: one pod I found (I haven't really searched a lot, I must admit) with a good declaration of privacy is I do prefer a pod closer to Sweden. I assume it is the law of the country where the pod is situated on which apply to it? Commercial pods (if there are any) I suppose can be as transnational as the big cloud services.