Friday, June 03, 2011

Adhesion and the Internet

Over the last few months I’ve been playing with a new DSLR and Photoshop (the latter kicking my butt regularly).  When I produce something I like, I sometimes post it to my Facebook page, but not using Photoshop or iPhoto.

Why you ask?

Here’s what iPhoto wants from me in return for uploading a picture (and Photoshop is similar):

Access my basic information
Includes name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information I've shared with everyone.

Post to my Wall
iPhoto Uploader may post status messages, notes, photos, and videos to my Wall

Access my profile information
Likes, Music, TV, Movies, Books, Quotes, About Me, Activities, Interests, Groups, Events, Notes, Birthday, Hometown, Current City, Website, Religious and Political Views, Education History, Work History and Facebook Status

Access my contact information
Online Presence

Access my family & relationships
Significant Other and Relationship Details and Family Members and Relationship Status

Access my photos and videos
Photos Uploaded by Me, Videos Uploaded by Me and Photos and Videos of Me

Access my friends' information
Birthdays, Religious and Political Views, Family Members and Relationship Statuses, Significant Others and Relationship Details, Hometowns, Current Cities, Likes, Music, TV, Movies, Books, Quotes, Activities, Interests, Education History, Work History, Online Presence, Websites, Groups, Events, Notes, Photos, Videos, Photos and Videos of Them, 'About Me' Details and Facebook Statuses

Why does iPhoto need info about my Facebook Friends, all of my contact information, my “relationships,” etc. to transmit a lousy picture?  A short answer, it doesn’t; but, it does want the info and forces me to give it if I want to use its services.

iPhoto, Photoshop, Android, and iPhone “permissions” are adhesion contracts.  Want a mortgage, an apartment, Windows?  Say yes to all the terms or you don’t get what you want.  Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt don’t negotiate with their customers.  Yes it’s “opt-in” which is an improvement over “opt-out,” Facebook’s infamous mode of operation.  And it’s transparent, another trendy word these days.  But is it a good idea?

Law over the centuries has evolved to protect people in circumstances where they are dealing with someone that has all the leverage.  In most states, an exculpatory agreement is invalid or limited in its scope (think the tiny print on the back of your ticket for an amusement park, a raft trip and so on).  Most states have laws about what apartment complexes can put in leases and what banks can put in mortgages.   Utility companies are regulated by states.

Not so the internet – the wild, wild west.  Maybe it’s because it came about in the Reagan Eighties, grew up in the go-go Nineties and matured with last decade’s lasseze faire government approach to business regulation.

But, I think it’s time the internet is recognized for what it has become – a utility – “a public service, as a telephone or electric-light system, a streetcar or railroad line, or the like.

Your electric and gas companies can’t make you give them private information (beyond credit qualifications) as a condition of providing you their products.  You don’t have to give them your address book and disclose your current significant other.

Proposing that the government step in to protect consumers doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy given its track record with regulation of cable companies and the financial industry over the past few decades; but, it running interference might slow down some of the excesses of our new tech masters just as it did with Twentieth Century industry, before it pretty much gave up the fight.

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