Privacy On The Net

joshualjohnson profile image Joshua Johnson ・1 min read

I went to sign up for an Instagram developer account and saw the effects of the Facebook data scandal. Made me think, how do you solve the problem of privacy when business models are geared around knowing you better than you know you.


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I've thought about this a bit. My loose idea is for users to have a personal encrypted database with sharing management. Then the user could permit apps to access certain kinds of information. Or better yet, the app had to store its own views of user information in that database only, not in its own servers.

When I searched for that, I found that Tim Berners-Lee was working on something similar call Solid.


Interestingly enough, I came across this project as well but feel like it is too complex for the general public to implement and understand. It's not easy, and I think it will ultimately fail. Think about how Wordpress has taken over the planet. We need something so easy and just works. I've been working on tackling this issue as well. I've been working on an application, similar to WP, that is easily installed, and will decentralize data allowing users to provide their data as they wish.


I'd be curious to see your project if you have it in public somewhere.

I'm in very early stages at this point. But this is the start of planing the seeds that will soon become FireStudio. I've started to build out a framework of solutions that will come together under one application. It all centers around data:

FireSQL - turns your SQL database into a schema-less document storeage db similar to couchdb or mongodb. It features self indexing. Allowing you to search your data based on top level keys.

FireTest - a simpler approach to php testing.

FireStudio - A very basic POC of me just putting together ideas of how all of this will work together.

And many more incomplete projects that go towards building out FireStudio.

Honestly, FireSQL will probably be the more interesting parts at this point. FireStudio will wrap more structure around FireSQL. It will provide the user with the ability to create and manage collections and fields. A collection will allow you to provide access to your data via an API that is autogenerated along with the backend UI to manage your collection data. I'm thinking OAuth2 via REST.

Long way to go. Want to help??

Sounds interesting.


This is a business model problem for FB, not really a privacy problem.

People will continue to give away their information. People want attention. There is a web standard being developed called ActivityPub that attempts to decentralize Twitter/Facebook style sharing.


Do you see ActivityPub having a real impact on Twitter/Facebook's bottom line?


Not immediately, or in the near future. However it is a tough Catch 22 for them regardless.

If they add support for ActivityPub, then the whole business is now commoditized. Why would a monopoly choose to become a commodity?

If they don't add support for ActivityPub, then all the networks supporting it become a "federation" to compete with Social monopolies.

Big Networks will choose to be "left out" of any new network technologies, and it will be their downfall. Slowly.


Keeping data secure isn't the main problem. There are numerous ways to segregate and encrypt data such that even full breach wouldn't reveal it. This can work for all types of clients and still allow for group communications.

The issue, as you say, is the business model built around the selling of that data. There is no technical solution to this business problem. Unless Google/Facebook create a different business model they simply can't solve the problem.

Aggregrating data and limiting details would be one way to limit exposure. This is likely sufficient for advertising (the key market I think), but insufficient for data mining and advanced profiling (something which probably shouldn't be allowed anyways).