Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Private Ownership in a Digital Age

Posted by Caitlin Endyke

In our last post we touched on the issue of privacy and the commons- specifically, what information should and shouldn’t be publicly available, given a commons frame.  In the modern Internet age, this question of privacy is a common one.  With so much of our lives online, how do we monitor what we share with one select group of people and what we share with the rest of the world?  And who owns that information?

Our last post turned out to address a timely question, given a new development in the online privacy debate that has gained considerable traction in the news cycle today.  This morning, the popular photo-sharing app Instagram released a new set of terms and conditions that has many of its users up in arms.  Part of the new agreement, revised because Facebook recently gained ownership of the application (read this post on CNN for more background on the story), states that once the new terms go into effect on January 16th users give up all claims to ownership of the photos they post through the Instagram system, and their usernames and the content that they create can be used freely by outside advertisers.  What this appears to mean in practice is that sponsors advertising on the site can use your name and information to promote their products, and that Instagram can use your photos in whichever way they see fit, all with no compensation or even notification to the user. 

The video from the ACLU that we posted on last week joked about the possibilities of what would happen to your personal information when privacy protections are ignored. But this idea- that social media companies can essentially own your information and that which you create online- takes it a step further.  Now, with the threat of private ownership ever-expanding, it appears as though even our digital lives are at risk.  

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