The Diaspora Yatra
Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS†
Friend: What? How’d you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
I don’t know why.
They “trust me”
The Zuck in the above conversation is Mark Zuckerberg. And they are
talking about Facebook.
It is a fact universally acknowledged and admitted by Facebook itself
that it sells data
of and about its users. In the movie Matrix, the machines use humans as
their power source feeding into their brains a computer-generated
dreamworld to keep them under control. Facebook’s product is its users.
To keep them occupied with frivolous stories Facebook makes up
algorithms, creates filter bubbles, digs up stories from the past, makes
deleting the account extremely hard, sends SMS notifications when they
remain logged out for a while, and even influences their emotions by
manipulating what they see.
Despite all the evil sins of modern day spying networks, the control
they exert on the Web has grown to dictatorial extends that saying “No”
to their terms is becoming impossible for everyone. Yet, that is exactly
what the members of a fast growing community of diaspora* users are
Diaspora is a free software that powers the diaspora* social network – a
nonprofit, user-owned, distributed social network. Its three main tenets
are decentralization, freedom, and privacy. Anyone can install Diaspora
on their own server (diaspora pod) and have complete control over their
data. All such pods can communicate with each other, just like email. By
nature the network is resistant to take-downs and censorship.
Diaspora and other privacy aware software like Cryptocat, TextSecure,
GPG, are real alternatives to the insecure, proprietary communication
software in the market today. But unfortunately, the number of people
who are aware of these and make use of these is incredibly small. That
is why a team of Indian diaspora users started “Diaspora Yatra”, a
campaign which aims to promote diaspora* and good privacy practices.
Diaspora Yatra has completed 3 weeks in Kerala visiting schools,
colleges, libraries, and other public spaces. Pirate Praveen and
others are holding discussions, debates, and workshops to engage
people – students, teachers, workers, advocates, all who turn up – and
to make them think about privacy.
People welcome their initiative and some do stop doing what is
convenient and start doing what is right. Diaspora yatra team are
frequently asked questions like “what happens to security if
communications cannot be intercepted by the government?” They are ready
with answers like “Does giving up privacy guarantee security?”. Curious
school students wonder who gets to see their photos and who does not,
and more importantly how they can control it. Lawyers talk about whether
pod admins should be moderating the content on their pod, whether
that’ll be equivalent to censorship.
These are signs for hope. People are slowly beginning to ask important
questions about privacy, security, freedom, etc. It will soon be
impossible for corporate entities to wield unfair control over what one
does on the Web. Assuming we all say “no” to unsavory practices and
stand up for an open Web.