In the midst of what can only be called the digital revolution, I find myself constantly worrying about the personal information I’m placing on the internet.
Once online, who has access to this information?
More importantly, how much control do I have over it once I’ve placed it online?
Recently, Facebook has been accused by Google founder, Sergey Brin, of disrupting what could otherwise function as an ‘open’ internet (Alleyne, 2012). The term “walled garden” describes a space online, like Facebook, that is controlled by a corporation which, in return for the use of that space, decides how you display your own information and subsequently own everything you place within their walls.
Surprisingly, what I found most intriguing in this debate was not Facebook’s access to my personal information, rather it was looking closer at the concept of an ‘open’ internet.
Still recovering from the recent controversy surrounding their updated privacy policies and subsequent expansion of their information database, it seems quite strange that it should be Sergey Brin that is protesting against collecting personal information online.
Yet as Keith Woolcock (2012) stated in his Time article “Is Google In Danger of Being Shut Out of the Changing Internet?” the motivations behind Google’s concern may be economically driven, in reaction to the threat of being “left out”. In “walled gardens” such as Apple and Facebook, users share an extensive amount of personal information and participate in various personal interactions. Google, whilst dominating global searches, does not gather the same level of personal data. These walls, as with any walls, are not simply designed to keep Facebook users and their information in, but also are designed specifically to keep others out. The walls that enclose such social networking platforms, is in my opinion, beneficial to both the user and the corporation. Unfortunately, for competitors such as Google, these walls block access to information they seek which could better inform their advertising services.
Whilst Google may have financially driven motivations behind their criticism of “walled gardens”, their ownership of YouTube coincides with their support of an ‘open’ internet. YouTube, a well known as a source of remixes, and innovative content regularly deal with copyright infringements. However, as it is the users of this network that include the copyrighted music or images, YouTube “will only delete the video when they receive a specific complaint from the copyright holder” (Zittrain, 2011).
YouTube provides a space for users to share creative content across the internet and the use of embedding codes allows these videos to be transported throughout the world wide web. While I remain skeptical of the intentions behind Google’s outcry, I do agree that the ability to share content across various internet platforms is one that encourages creativity and innovation, and that copyright laws and “walled gardens” do in fact inhibit the free flow of information.
Alleyne, R 2012, “Google chief Sergey Brin: Facebook’s walled garden threatens web”, 15 April, accessed 26/04/2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/9205726/Google-chief-Sergey-Brin-Facebooks-walled-garden-threatens-web.html
Woolcock, K 2012, “Is Google In Danger of being Shut Out of the Changing Internet?”, 1 February, accessed 26/04/2012, http://business.time.com/2012/02/01/are-we-seeing-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-google/#ixzz1tCa3397z
Zittrain, J 2011, ‘Thethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement’, In The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp101-126