My name is Adrian Trif and I am a passionate web developer


App.net and the wrong way to start

This is just a quick post since I don’t have time to go into details right now but man, I was so dissapointed by the discovery I made this morning.

Last night I was reading the new about the App.net concept and I was feeling the good vibe and appreciation coming from the community of web developers, but honestly I was on the fence about it. This morning I was reading the comments on theverge and some people were questioning the decision of not using kickstarter and the fact that App.net founders could just lie about the fact that the target was indeed reached or not.

If you run a kickstarter campaign, there are some rules to be followed, but when you’re running your own, you can announce at any time that the funding was successful and who’s going to validate that?

I opened their funding page to see how many people have subscribed and the number is sitting currently at 9600 people and there are 25 hours left. But opening the global stream alpha.app.net and browsing the user profile pages, if you hover the user name in the header of the page, the link title shows the user_id and this way we can approximate if the real number of users is true or fake by looking at the user_id of the most recent users.

To my surprise, I could not find any users with the id bigger than 3100, as an example I took a screenshot of tonyarnold‘s profile who joined just an hour ago and has the user_id 3104. This looks very ugly to me and stating that you want to do the right thing and starting like this… I’ll attach a screenshot in a case they find about this and decide to hide or change the user_id values.

You don’t own your personal data

That’s right. It’s supposed to be your personal data but the truth is you don’t own “your personal data”. We live in this capitalist world and big corporations value this data and will invest time and money to gather it, store it, analyze it and use it in their own interest.

There’s been lots of debating lately about how to protect your personal data, the same data you are willingly giving to google, facebook, your bank or your phone carrier company. Even if you don’t share it yourself, I bet at least 39% of your friends (just a thought up number, not based on any statistics) shared their list of contacts when they joined a social network, including your contact data. If you don’t live isolated somewhere in the amazonian forest, chances are at least one company or government agency has your data and is willing to share it with other companies or governments for a price. And this is where everything comes down to: money.

Earlier this year, a social networking application for iPhone and Android called Path caused a scandal by uploading the entire address book from your phone to their servers without the user’s knowledge or consent. Path has come forward and apologised for this, also updated their app to request the user consent.

After the Path scandal, Apple decided to take protection measures and require explicit user permission for apps to access contact data. This discussion should not be about how can you keep your personal data contacts secure, but establishing the price of your personal data and the ways it can be accessed, who has access to it and being informed about how it’s used.

I think this would be the next logical step (at least in this capitalist world we live in): to set a price for every company who wants to access your data, but this won’t probaly happen because the big corporations don’t want to share their profits with their users and continuing to get the data they need from social networks. Facebook and Google+ both use this demographic data to sell advertising, Twitter sells promoted tweets.

All social networks should be regarded as systems designed to get as much data about their users, process it and then selling it to advertisers. You, as the user don’t see any money but instead get to use a free service that you might find fun or useful.