Ranking Identity

Infect Teh Interwebs

Facebook and Google both maintain policies and “terms of service” agreements regarding the services they offer. In theory Google and Facebook can make any damn demands they bloody well want, and for a free service their clientèle should bloody well accept this. In Theory – however both services are already represent monopolist services of a new character that are not replicated at the same level elsewhere. Social Networks have become a necessity for a large segment of society and not being able to freely take part in these services represent a significant vulnerability for people in our society who want to communicate in some level of relative freedom.

Facebook and Google+ (as well as Linked-In and several other networks to some degree) have their reasons to want to limit their services to people whose identity (and legal “reality”) they can determine, verify and constrain, and where they can select and ‘exterminate’ (or purge) the clients accounts do not represent gross duplicate accounts. The general idea is that both companies have somewhat different reasons to do this – Facebook has primarily marketing interests; Facebook has clients who pay for access to unique users. Facebook advertisers do not want to pay for a target audience of which they have the idea a percentage is what they would characterize as ‘fake’. Also, facebook sells collected data on users to many parties, including the world’s inteligence agencies to the level that at this stage Facebook can be regarded as a co-opted tool of the US National Security Agency. Many of these acts are illegal in the US – that is why parties in the NSA cooperate with FSB investors (Facebook is 20% owned by proven Russian Intelligence and Espionage agencies) and both these organizations have explicitly paramilitary, decidedly right conservative or neoconservative, globalist and ‘caucasian-centered’ interests and goals. Google on the other end may represent somewhat less sinister corporate interests,. it still scans your mail and it still uses collected data to target adds on all of its consumers. Google as a corporation is very much interested in serendipitous research into new products and albeit they may have a humanist streak, the worlds consumers do not have a guarantee these policies may not suddenly change in the face of tighter economic constraints or global competition.

Average, decent, upstanding citizens may regard this as common sense and just plain sensible corporate policy. I would typify the general apathy on these data mining schemes as spectacularly naive. We have seen time and time again in history that similar processes always end very badly.

Recently one reason to ban people from both services has been the little detail that many users operate under a name that is not the name written down in their respective wallet. For the last years I have consistently labelled this the practice of Nym; i.e. “sustaining a self-formulated identity”. This Nymious lifestyle is often met with considerable suspicion and dismissal. Being a Nym carries a considerable e-stigma and Nymmers are regarded by some as deceitful or suspicious. However that is also extremely shortsighted, as only a short brainstorming session will show any reasonable person there may be many reasons to sustain an alias, pseudonym, avatar, persona or alternate identity.

The question then is – if someone is a ‘vanilla’ user of such services, i.e. if there is a John Smith, who publishes perfiable personal facts on who or what he is in the real world (i.e. “robust and falsifiable exposure”) can John Smith then make a fair demand he (provided that he in in fact himself who he claims he is) he only wishes to engage in interaction with, or communicate with virtual identities that may be alleged to be fictional or otherwise less congruent with a real world person? Likewise, does either Google or Facebook represent its client interests, or is it implementing a corporate, oligarchic, prejudicial or otherwise paternalistic selection criteria to force a certain loifestyle on its users?

In other words, is what Facebook and Google do still decent, fair, legal, ethical or sensible?

I say it is not, and I emphasize it isn’t sensible. Nymity is a practice that evidently won’t go away. I’d go even further – a considerable percentage of all consumers will have alternate social network identities, to protect themselves from the harmful consequences of being publicly exposed in a certain manner. Google and Facebook are trying to marginalize a category of personal privacy, sanctity and freedom that is traditionally only the right of states. In effect both services (and there are others out there) use their market share to ostracise a category of client they regard as ‘ímpractical’ or ‘not long term cost effective’.

They will fail, and it should be obvious why. In a few years even the most vanilla civilians will realize that full disclosure online is foolhardy and self-endangering. In ten years the consumer demands will be towards non-disclosure or variants of “truthiness“. I can imagine that corporations who depend on marketing would like to sway social-demographic demands and desires away from this tendency, but they will fail. The need for variants of nymiois privacy isn’t just a contingent cultural phenomenon – it will soon become a partial requirement for leading a safe life in a thoroughly cyberized world.

I use the name ‘khannea suntzu’ in my daily life. Most my friends, and even my neighbour calls me Cassandra, Khani, K, Kay or Khannea. They in part realize why I am who I am and why I made the choices I made. I am working to legally change my born name into Khannea, and I insist I have a right to self-define in this matter. Nevertheless “Khannea”is a very specific nym, which considerably at odds with my born identity, but ingronguity is bloody well what I have to accept and do in fact accept. It is as such a lifestyle, a philosophical choice, an artistic statement, a leitmotiff as a device for sanity and joy.

In this regard what Facebook and Google+ do may be a very rude and thoughtless thing – it is plain ostracism, persecution and marginalization of a part of their prospective clientele. They sure as hell make me feel threatened.

There must be solutions that safeguard the inalienable corporate interests of these companies, as well as safeguard the interests of other users (and say – minors) on these social networks from spammers, political lobbying, “damn liars” (as they might typify this) or predatorial users. The latter are so far not my interests.

“Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the US Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation—and their ideas from suppression—at the hand of an intolerant society. The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political [or religious, sexual or artistic] speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.”

I would propose (or strongly urge) that these social networks introduce a ‘verification ranking’ to the client profiles they manage and have sworn to protect. In fact – facebook is subject to local laws. Facebook as well as Google maintain local offices in my country – if they break laws in my country (say: if they publicize photos of alleged criminals) then the justice system in my country may fine them spectacular fines. These lawsuits will soon land in the mail box of Youtube, Google and Facebook and they in turn will respond with intense and elaborate shoulder-pulling, widespread banning of accounts, or delegating lawsuits to users.

In a perfect world my government wouldn’t even know many private details about who I am, unless I wanted them to. The sad fact is the world is currehtly organized as to more or less have governments declare me in part a state property. Governments front their citizens as a collateral in state money loans. Or – In some countries citizens even have to pay taxes when they live abroad. (Its against the law to give up your U.S. citizenship in order to avoid U.S. taxes). While I do support the necessity of a state to levvy taxes, this clearly transgresses into the persecutorial. I abhor these state practices and regard them in the light of excessive authoritarianism.

Hence I certainly do not appreciate the same behaviour or practice in the corporate sector.

Social networks should accomodate freedoms, not constrain them. It is up to me to decide what I consider fair freedoms, and it is uyp to these service providers to realize they are becoming a new monoculture of monopolist communicative service providers. These service providers should have the sense to anticipate the inevitable – in a few years there will be without a shadow of a doubt a legal (and state) backlash against these variants of data mining.

I propose a ranking in these online dimensions, where the user can define what she or he is or is not. Operant terms should be Alias, Nym, Real Person, Verified Identity, Avatar, E-vatar, pseudonym, commentator, collaboration, alter-ego, incarnation, Religious Statement, Artist, Character, Minor, Adult, Citizen, etc. Users should be free from persecution even if they do not disclose or express these characterizations or labels and these social network service providers should be respectful and considerate in how they deal with people who use these epithets.

Then, as an exponent of fairness and free choice it is up to other users of a social network to discriminate against these users by blocking the categories selected. If I choose to manifest myself as a Nym online, that’s my choice, and if someone else decided to blacklist me for doing so that’s their choice. But neither Google or Facebook should be tolerated in being the para-military or para-legal gatekeeper of such selection.

They don’t write the common law, they have no say who to prosecute and do not execute sentences.

Update
A common objection are considerations of “defamation”, “contractual obligations”, “due dilligence”, “terrorism laws”, “potential for child abuse or pedophylia” and “potential money laundering”. I will later on make some statements about these considerations, as well as some other considerations covered under ‘freedom of religion”. To be updated.