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Diaspora: Sharing, Social Networking, and a Commitment to Privacy

Four self-described nerds at New York University want to build a social network that won't surrender your personal information to heartless corporations. So they put a video up on Kickstarter and launched a campaign to earn $10,000 to build the thing. As of this posting, they've raised more than $100,000.

Here's an excerpt from their recent The New York Times profile:

They have called their project Diaspora* and intend to distribute the software free, and to make the code openly available so that other programmers can build on it. As they describe it, the Diaspora* software will let users set up their own personal servers, called seeds, create their own hubs and fully control the information they share. Mr. Sofaer says that centralized networks like Facebook are not necessary. “In our real lives, we talk to each other,” he said. “We don’t need to hand our messages to a hub. What Facebook gives you as a user isn’t all that hard to do. All the little games, the little walls, the little chat, aren’t really rare things. The technology already exists.”

The terms of the bargain people make with social networks — you swap personal information for convenient access to their sites — have been shifting, with the companies that operate the networks collecting ever more information about their users. That information can be sold to marketers. Some younger people are becoming more cautious about what they post. “When you give up that data, you’re giving it up forever,” Mr. Salzberg said. “The value they give us is negligible in the scale of what they are doing, and what we are giving up is all of our privacy.”

This idea that privacy and sharing don't have to be mutually exclusive is so compelling I'm at a loss for words.

You can watch them explain the idea in the video on their Kickstarter page (where you can contribute financially), or learn more on their website.

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