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TIME Magazine praises Mark Zuckerberg for creating a system that has connected people around the world with each other. Unfortunately, the terms under which he claims to have done this set a terrible precedent for our future.
For control over our data, and for our privacy. The damage is not limited to Facebook users. Because so many sites — including TIME — use Facebook's user-tracking "Like" button, Zuckerberg is able to collect information about people who aren't even users of his site. These are precedents which hurt our ability to freely connect with each other. He has created a network that is first and foremost a gold mine for government surveillance and advertisers.
This much is evident from Facebook's outward behavior — but things could actually be much worse than we know. The fact that Facebook's code is hidden from view means that its users are not connecting directly with each other. They are speaking to Mr. Zuckerberg, who first writes down and files away everything said, and then maybe relays it to the intended destination, if it suits him. In some cases he does not — witness the recent reports of Facebook's messaging service blocking messages based on the words and links in them, because those links point to services which Facebook would prefer we not discuss.
Fortunately, there are many efforts underway to provide distributed, user-controlled services to facilitate connection between people, including GNU social, status.net, Crabgrass, Appleseed and Diaspora. These services will not have the same kinds of problems, because both the communication-handling code and the communication data will be in the hands of the people doing the communicating.
These efforts will eventually succeed. We hope that when they do, TIME will remedy its mistaken reasoning by awarding the Person of the Year appropriately.
In the meantime, you can encourage people not to connect with Zuckerberg while thinking that they are connecting with you, by putting this button on your blog or web site, with a link to whatever method you would prefer they use to contact you directly — maybe your http://identi.ca or other status.net account.
Alternatively, you could point it at this post or any of the better articles pointing out the problems with Facebook, such as "With friends like these ..." by Tom Hodgkinson, or the resources available at http://autonomo.us — especially the "Franklin Street Statement on Freedom and Network Services".
Our button, of course, is not linked to any surveillance database or tracking system.
All buttons released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.
Please feel free to change the buttons, but keep both of the creator names intact, and make sure your buttons are under the same license.