Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We all give stuff away

One of the great benefits of the Internet is that we can share our thoughts and pictures in a variety of ways. Our intention may be just to share those things only with friends and people we know but such is the nature of the Internet that others can easily access that information and use it without our knowing.

Through this blog for example, all sorts of people out there learn things about the personal lives of my wife and I, our comings and goings and our thoughts on a range of issues. When I first started writing Esta es Jauja there were a lot more personal posts included. Gradually, as I saw the readership grow, I have reduced that content a) because I might not want to share all those details with the world and b) they are probably of no interest to anyone other than our family and friends anyway.

I also have a Flickr account as well on which I post pictures, some of which reveal information about us. Many of the subscribers to Flickr use a pseudonym to protect their identity, I use my real name but of course there are many people out there with the same name as me so that does not concern me. 

I am aware that many of my photographs have been used elsewhere. Since I operate under a “Creative Commons” license that gives people the right to use my photos as long as they attribute them to me. Many do just that, they write to me and seek permission and then use the photos for their own purposes. As far as I know, nobody has used my more personal pictures - why would they?

It would be very naive to assume that companies like Yahoo and Google offer their services for nothing, in fact I pay to host my  photos on Flickr but not to host this blog on Google. There are many other so called free services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which seem to charge nothing to provide web space to us. Lots of free lunches out there for us to take advantage of.

Let us be clear, it costs a lot of money to host millions of Facebook accounts and millions of photos on Instagram. The server farms required are huge and both expensive to set up and run. If you think it costs a lot to keep your house cool in summer, imagine what it costs to keep thousands of computers running cool.

Facebook have come clean and told their clients that they will use the information provided to push “selected” adverts to them. Now Instagram have also come clean and told users that their photos can be used for commercial purposes without payment or permission.

For the average person on the street, this is hardly an issue. Let’s be honest, it is difficult to imagine any commercial use for photos of your dog or cat and even pictures of your children playing in the park have little value. Where Instagram hope to make money is from the pictures that so called celebrities post. Whereas, the average user might post the odd photo, these star struck individuals revel in sharing every aspect of their lives with us and so post pictures by the bucket load. They tweet and post all day long from their diamond encrusted smartphones in an attempt to keep their profiles high. It is these people who will bring in the cash for Instagram and it is they who are are now up in arms about the change in policy.

It is a sad fact that our openness these days leaves us vulnerable to being snooped upon, gossiped about and generally abused by people we do not even know. If we are uncomfortable about those issues, then the answer lies with the delete button.

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