FreedomBox cofounder and Columbia law professor Eben Moglen is widely recognized for his controversial ideas about the Internet and privacy, so it was unsurprising when we learned that he’s not really that into Facebook and Twitter. But did you know that he thinks your cell phone is out to kill you? Or maim, at the very least.
Mr. Moglen certainly believes that smartphones are more foe than friend. This is because, according to Forbes, smartphones still don’t have the first rule of robotics encoded into their technological makeup. That rule, written by scifi writer Isaac Asimov, is, “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”
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This reporter’s contentious interview with privacy advocate and Columbia prof Eben Moglen sparked a long discussion in the comments about privacy, Facebook, and journalistic responsibility. A student of Mr. Moglen and a developer at the Columbia Center for New Media and Teaching, Jonah Bossewitch, wrote a post-mortem on the affair under the headline, “Yelling it like it is.” “Was Moglen trying out a new media strategy? Was this a calculated publicity stunt? A performative critique of journalistic conventions? How effective was it…?” Worth a read.
Yesterday afternoon, this reporter was scrambling to finish reporting a forward-looking story about how banks are exploring the possibility of using social media data to judge loan and credit applicants. My editor wanted a quote from a privacy advocate, so I immediately thought of Eben “Spying for Free” Moglen, a militant digital privacy advocate, founder of the uber-secure personal server FreedomBox, and the inspiration for the decentralized social network Diaspora. In hindsight, perhaps I should have just called Cory Doctorow.
Mr. Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University, was not particularly interested in talking about banks using social media to spy on their customers.
Everyone who uses Facebook, Twitter and the like shares the blame for the serious and ongoing global erosion of privacy enabled by the internet, he said. Banks aren’t the problem, he said; the users tempting banks with their Twitter and Facebook postings are the problem.
As are reporters who write about privacy issues with social media without first closing their Facebook accounts.