Guest-posting on Jason Kottke's blog, Tim Carmody argues that the problems with Facebook and OKCupid's involuntary human testing are problems with the social web at large:
Still, for as long as the web does work this way, we are never only
these companies' "products," but their producers, too. And to the extent
that these companies show they aren't willing to live up to the basic
agreement that we make these things and give them to you so you will show them to other people
-- the engine that makes this whole world wide web business go -- I'm
not going to have anything to do with them any more. What's more, I'll
get mad enough to find a place that will show the things I write to
other people and tell them they shouldn't accept it either. Because,
ultimately, you ought to be ashamed to treat people and the things they
make this way.
It's a great piece, and I agree, with a major caveat: this isn't how the web - or even the social web - works at all.
What Tim is referring to is a silo-centric version of the commercial web that we've come to accept as the new normal. The accepted thinking right now is that of course services and applications are running psychological tests on us without our permission. Of course they're using opaque algorithms to monetize our ability to communicate with our friends and family. Of course they're mining our private communications in order to display advertising.
There's no of course about it. We founded Known because we know that these policies harm independent content creators. We're not alone: projects like Indie Box and Sandstorm, not to mention the entire indie web community, are springing up to provide more empowering, respectful software and services. Before long, taking advantage of your users will be a market disadvantage, and businesses that have built themselves up by disenfranchising the people who use their products will find themselves in a tough spot. Even today, though, the social web doesn't have to mean being taken advantage of, and we're proud to be building a more respectful alternative.