Friday, 12 November 2010

Digital serfdom: who owns your identity?

The Economist observes here that both Google and Facebook are run like absolute monarchies in which hundreds of millions of users (digital serfs, some might say) have created identities. Rather like mercantilist countries in the offline realm, both companies operate policies to protect this asset.

Questions are raised about digital feudalism and the law. Google believes users own information such as their e-mail address books, and should be able to take it with them wherever they go on the web. The company even has a “data liberation” team that builds tools to simplify such imports and exports. In contrast, Facebook argues that the owner of the e-mail address, not someone who has collected it, should decide where and how it is shared

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I am director of the Media and Persuasive Communication (MPC) network at Bangor University where I also lecture on political-economy of the media. I am currently working on a book provisionally titled Deconstructing Privacy for Peter Lang and leading two empirical projects in connection with privacy perception and the use of new media for smoking cessation. I am author of Creativity and Advertising: Affect, Events and Process (Routledge, 2013); The Mood of Information: A Critique of Behavioural Advertising (Continuum, 2011); and Digital Advertising (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2009). Please contact me at if you are interested in Ph.D supervision or consultancy services.