The Internet was built as a kind of decentralized democracy. Change is slow and messy but it protects us from a single entity forcing their will on us.

When you move your data and social graph to a closed platform you vote for authoritarian rule.

Such choices never end well.

Many trusted their data and social graph to VK in Russia under a benevolent dictator that fought for their rights.

The Russian government saw him replaced with someone more ethically flexible and now they control those systems.

Many trusted all the Apple marketing on privacy.

In China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong we saw apps and emoji used for dissent were banned, rooms on private networks like Telegram were pressured to be banned, and encryption keys for iMessage/iCloud were handed over to the CCP.

The Oculus VR team intended to protect users on their network from excessive surveillance and abuse.

They sold to Facebook, who told them they would carry that vision forward and never require Facebook accounts.

Facebook changed their mind when they saw value in the data.

The founders of WhatsApp sought to provide easy secure communication for the masses, but scaling is hard and expensive.

Facebook offered to buy them and help them scale their vision for privacy, and keep them independent.

Spoiler: they lied.

The masses are now flocking move their data and social graphs to Signal, yet another closed network run by a well meaning benevolent dictator.

I am sure if will be different this time.

We have a choice.

HTTP is standard and controlled by no single party. You can choose whatever web browser or ISP you want and people who made different choices can all communicate and cooperate.

Same story with SMTP, ActivityPub, or Matrix.

Building huge networks with decentralized control means you get new features slower, and sometimes rollouts are messier, but to adopt anything else is to abandon the very freedom that allowed the internet to become what it is today, instead of all being owned by someone like AOL.

I once thought I too could protect the data of a lot of users.

I ran a machine learning company that analyzed social media data.

Unlike competitors I made this a free public search engine.

Investors demanded I turn it into a political propaganda machine.

I ultimately quit.

I ran infrastructure, and security at Pebble and was unquestionably the loudest voice for privacy.

But then we got acquired by Fitbit. I realized I could not protect user data anymore. I quit.

Now that data is owned by Google.


Any single entity that thinks they can protect a huge pile of valuable data forever is as naive as I once was.

We must stop taking the easy road or picking things based only on their UX.

Learn to use decentralized systems and teach others or the free internet won't survive.

@lrvick nice thread Lance. I agree and bang on about this all the time.

It feels a bit lonely "out there" but there are many who do get this as well. If you've not done so yet, check out which has a great community, and I think ground breaking privacy tech. It's where I put most of my effort in this topic.

@lrvick i am perplexed at how we ended up in this absurd mess.

Decentralization is not some hard to achieve utopia, its the natural state of human kind. Personal spaces, agency built on privacy etc are all deeply ingrained behaviors.

Not to mention that without personal privacy there cannot be any commercial privacy (companies are made of people) and the whole premise of a diversified economy collapses

It think we are living through an aberration. This is not normal

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