In 1789, James Madison authored the United States Bill of Rights to set limits on what the government can and cannot do in regards to personal liberties. On December 15, 1971, this Bill of Rights was ratified. In 2007, Joseph Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Michael Arrington authored a Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web to set limits on what social media sites can and cannot do in regards to ownership and control of users’ personal information. In a world where social media sites like Twitter are integrating with search engines like Yahoo, should this second Bill of Rights be ratified? In other words, are social media sites equivalent to the federal government of the United States?
No way! Ratifying a Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web would convey social media sites’ sovereignty over users. This is not the case. Unlike the government, social media sites are not in charge of users, and they do not make and enforce rules for users. Rather, as a whole, social media sites have given users the power to create and share. They have erased the rules of who can publish what and how one can gain an audience. Social media sites do not owe users certain rights- they have already given us complete freedom to evolve culturally.
And in using social media sites, we have indeed evolved towards a culture in which yesterday’s TMI (too much information) is now the norm. While we may not love the idea of losing control of the personal content that we generate and share on social media sites, most of us choose generating and sharing over the alternative of not doing so at all. We have already become so addicted to social media sites that we would rather adapt to our loss of ownership and control of personal information than shut down our accounts. For most of us, losing access to our accounts is in fact scarier than losing ownership and control of our personal information. Who is to say that personal information is even that personal in this day and age when everyone is connected?