Cory Doctorow

Creative Typist, Happy Mutants LLC

There's a war going on between users and Internet companies. Unfortunately, it is a war where users can't fight back.  The battles of this war are fought whenever a user gives personal information to an Internet company to get a product or service.  Cory Doctorow thinks this battle is unfair to users, but he does have suggestions on how users can take control of their personal data.

In some of these transactions, Internet companies do the analog equivalent of hiding the Terms of Service (TOS) under your chair.  Facebook is a master of the practice of making it nearly impossible to know what you are getting when you share your information.  Cory believes that the transition to digital cameras provides a good model to help this issue.  They made us better photographers because we could see the results immediately.  He suggests that bringing the TOS to the front of a transaction, could do the same for personal information.

To end this war, regulators are considering two solutions: "Do Not Track" and being able to pull your data on request. Both of these solutions have their problems.  "Do Not Track" is easy for users to ignore and difficult to determine who is being tracked.  Owning your personal data means giving up the web's personalized results, which include  more relevant information.  Cory thinks that browsers can help control how personal information is used.

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (, and a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (, a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He is a Visiting Senior Lecturer at Open University (UK) and Scholar in Virtual Residence at the University of Waterloo (Canada); in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.


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