Michael Braga, USA TODAY
Published 4:04 p.m. ET Feb. 7, 2021 | Updated 5:12 p.m. ET Feb. 7, 2021
A lot has changed since the World Wide Web was born 30 years ago.
The internet today is nothing like the World Wide Web that Sir Tim Berners-Lee envisioned when he invented it in 1989.
While it continues to be a place where people can interact in a free exchange of ideas, individuals and groups have lost their sense of empowerment to a handful of giant monopolies and countries that are bent on collecting their personal data.
“Once a platform becomes dominant, it is able to collect more data,” said Pieter Verdegem, senior lecturer at the University of Westminster School of Media and Communication. “That is what we are seeing around the world, and it explains why we have the so-called GAFAM – Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft – in the U.S. and the so-called BAT – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent – in China.”
“The next wave is about artificial intelligence,” Verdegem said. “Companies and governments will use all that data to train algorithms to come up with better deep learning models. And as (Russian President) Vladimir Putin once said, the person who is in charge of artificial intelligence will dominate the world.”
But Berners-Lee and his business partner, John Bruce, have come up with an alternative to fight back against this consolidation of power.
They have launched a startup company, Inrupt.com, that allows consumers, rather than companies, to control their own data, to store it in pods and to move it wherever they please.
That means Facebook, Google or any other Big Tech company will no longer be able to extract an individual’s photos, comments or purchase history without asking. All of that will be stored on a pod, and the individual can share the information with the company if he or she chooses.
“We are on a mission to change the way the web works, to make it a better place for all of us,” said Berners-Lee in a November YouTube video with Technology Intelligence Live. “It’s a mid-course correction to restore the values of individual and group empowerment that the internet used to have and seems to have lost.”
Berners-Lee explained that he came up with the open-sourced, web-based protocols for the new company while teaching at MIT. It’s called Solid and allows anyone to share information with anyone else. They don’t even need to be using the same apps.
“This is the opposite way that apps are built,” Berners-Lee said. “You don’t have to hand your data over and then it’s locked away in that app forever.”
With Solid, the individual – not a platform like Facebook – controls the data
So far, the biggest deals that Inrupt has inked have been with government entities and large corporations. It has a deal with the National Health System in the United Kingdom to put health data into pods so that when someone shows up at a hospital, all their health history will show up with them.
It also has deals with the BBC to deliver services to viewers in a smarter way and with the Flanders government in Belgium.
Verdegem, who recently wrote about Inrupt in The Conversation, said his main criticism of the company is that an individual’s data isn’t worth that much. It’s only in the aggregate that data is really valuable to a company like Google or Facebook.
But maybe that’s not the way data should be looked at anyway, Verdegem said. It should be looked at as something that’s not owned by individuals or companies, but by society.
He pointed to pilot projects in Amsterdam and Barcelona, Spain, which permitted citizens to decide how they wanted data to be used, whether they wanted it to be given to open-source developers so they could improve mobility services or just to companies like Uber or Google.
“Governments and communities are coming to realize that Big Tech’s data-driven digital dominance is unhealthy for society,” Verdegem said in his article.
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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey
Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.
Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.
However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.
On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.
Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal
In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.
In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.
Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws
It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.
Russian social media laws
As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.
Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses
Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.
The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.
With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.
Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.
Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to email@example.com.