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Social media angst needs active help

columns Updated: Nov 30, 2014 20:17 IST
N. Madhavan

I woke up on Sunday morning to find a number of my Facebook friends – some of them very learned --- updating their status messages with what looked like a safety clause in a lawsuit. It read: “Due to the fact that Facebook has chosen to involve software that will allow the theft of my personal information, I do declare the following: on this day, November 29,2014, in response to the new Facebook guidelines and under articles L.111, 112 and 113 of the code of intellectual property, I declare that my rights are attached to all my personal data, drawings, paintings, photos, texts etc... published on my profile. For commercial use of the foregoing my written consent is required at all times.”

The Facebook spokesperson said it was a hoax and helpfully mailed me the company’s new data policy with all details on privacy, settings and all that. A Google search also revealed that it was “pointless garbage” or a “hoax” playing on privacy and intellectual property linked fears — and these clarifications happened two years ago!

However, the simple fact is that social media and user generated content are a complex subject. Since the content in question can be used/abused in many ways (think cut-and-paste theft, tagging, cyberstalking, intrusive advertising research), paranoia will be a frequently occurring thing. I joke often that user-generated content is “loser generated content” as content creators do not get rewarded, while they fear copyright theft or violation of privacy.

Fancy algorithms and data mining techniques are the 21st Century’s Big Brothers.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are the new global bureaucracies, and the way they communicate needs to improve a lot – in style, simplicity, frequency and pro-activeness. If not, people will fear the worst.