Doc Searles, current editor of Linux Journal, and former doer of all sorts of stuff, has written an interesting piece about the recent privacy kerfuffle with Facebook, but there’s a difference between his post and the usual round of “Should we all abandon Facebook?” articles that comes out every time they do something egregiously evil (incidentally, this is the rare exception to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines: the answer is yes). He actually suggests something that could be done about it. Better still, it’s not a pie-in-the-sky, blockchain-based, maybe in a few years if we all clap our hands and believe sort of something. It’s a something that already exists and could begin to get better fast. We’ve all become familiar with the little window that pops up to say “By continuing to use this site, you acknowledge that we’re entitled to gather, use, and sell as much information as we possibly can from your browser, and we might sneak into your home in the night and collect DNA.” What if, instead of that system, where everyone mindlessly or hopelessly agrees to whatever nonsense is foisted upon them, the sites we use could agree to our terms.
Customer Commons is an attempt to create terms that allow consumers to dictate how their information gets used by the agencies that collect it, in much the same way that Creative Commons allows content creators to dictate the terms of how their content is used. This is, I will admit, still a little half-baked, but Linux Journal is already going to be the first publication to use terms set by consumers. There’s some real potential here.