Better internet manifesto
Recently I have felt inspired by Internet's Own Boy and Citizenfour, to pen my thoughts on how I view and judge Internet services. Just as Aaron Swartz called us to action on Open Access, I wish to define three guiding principles for a better Internet:
- Open data - Choose services where I can get the data out quickly and is it in a usable format? - git interface allowing pull and ideally push (write!) too
- Decentralised - Avoid services where there is a concentration of power
- Opensource - Choose software where I can transparently see changes, has manageable source code so that it can be forked - using git with full history
Notice that I haven't requested some encryption adoption or privacy here. I feel if things are sufficiently decentralised, that would satisfy me for needs of privacy, since it raises the cost of mass surveillance.
Gmail is not opensource. It's incredibly centralised so that if an enemy had access to Gmail, and lets imagine most people use Gmail as their email client, by and large that enemy could read your email. Gmail does make it possible to get your data out, so score is 1 of 3.
What is the alternative? Using another email provider. Email is an open standard designed to be decentralised, so this should be an easy task. Sadly most email providers suck. I've chosen https://www.fastmail.fm/, since they aren't as big as Gmail. This is decentralised in my book, since it raises the cost of mass surveillance, since now NSA/GCHQ has to work with Fastmail to read people's email. So Fastmail gets a score of 2 of 3.
Ideally I would host my own (and my for friends&family) email, but it takes too much effort for me.
A lot of people lately are saying, lets chat on Slack! Fail! Although Slack does allow you to get your data out, it's obviously centralised and it's not opensource. Why even consider it?
The alternative is clear in my book. IRC, which is 3 of 3. Though don't expect private communication.
Before someone criticizes my "guiding principles" of my usage of Facebook or Twitter, can I just point out that I do not expect privacy on either platform.
Twitter (1 of 3) is better than Facebook (0 of 3) since their APIs for 'Open data', i.e. getting your data back out are sane compared to Facebook. Case in point: http://greptweet.com/
An online life is complex. I tried to keep these 3 principles; Open Access, Decentralisation & Opensource as simple as possible, to help me and hopefully you make better decisions that should aid privacy and increase competitiveness of our wonderful Internet!
Further links: I noticed a project called redecentralize that echoes my sentiments.