Plutonian Striptease: "Like Powered Census"

In recent years, social graph surfaced as the representation of how people are present on the web and how they are related to each other, on a global scale. It is generated by user activity on a wide range of social networking sites. Being offered the privacy control settings within the network, the users "perform their privacy" and voluntarily feed in the content designated solely for their peers. This creates not only "walled gardens" of closed systems, but more importantly, "privacy lock-in" for users who are left to demand protection of their personal data.

By creating a problematic private/public divide, the network owners are justified to take upon the role of protector, "privatise" the private data and enclose the social graph generated in this way. The owners extract the value and monetise these data sets particularly through direct marketing and social commerce by renting data to advertisers and social applications developers.

They also keep control over access to social graph because it serves as their competitive advantage. This process has created the asymmetric power relations, leading to establishment of an oligarchy of social graph owners, particularly Google and Microsoft-backed Facebook, who now dominate the social web. Contrary to the economic means of these companies to make social graph a scarce commodity and acquire value, World Wide Web Consortium released RDF protocol which in combination with FOAF and XFN standards provides an open architecture for social graph as a public good.

After examining the series of events revealing the competition between Facebook and Google over social graph control, and taking a brief look into open standards, the talk will question the very ideology of social graph as an extension of centuries old mechanism of census, viewing it as a technology of power.