Privacy in Social media is Diaspora the answer?
If you’ve been reading the tech press recently, you may well have come across a new project called Diaspora, which bills itself as The privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network.With all the fiasco of late regarding Facebook’s privacy implications it’s a compelling proposition. In this post, I’d like to take a quick look at Diaspora, and discuss what I think they’re doing well and not so well.
What is Diaspora?
The word Diaspora itself comes from the Greek Î´Î¹Î±ÏƒÏ€Î¿ÏÎ¬ (literally, a scattering [of seeds]) which Wikipedia defines as the movement or migration of a group of people, such as those sharing a national and/or ethnic identity, away from an established or ancestral homeland.Not only perhaps nodding to their aspirations to take users away from Facebook, the name Diaspora reflects the technological architecture behind their site, an infrastructure that promises a potential revolution in social networking privacy.
What’s so special about Diaspora’s privacy offering?
Architecturally, Diaspora uses the concept of seedsand pods. A Seed is similar to a profile or account (much like a Facebook account). Your seed interacts with those of your friends to keep each other up to date. A pod is a server running Diapsora’s software, where users can make their own seeds. It’s pretty straightforward to set up a Pod, and different pods can communicate with each other. What’s really interesting is that anyone can set up a pod, which means that it’s up to you as to who you want to host your seed with (or even if you want to host it yourself). This is massive from a privacy point of view control is firmly back in the hands of users rather than a monolithic, faceless, private social networking company.
Open Source Software
Diaspora is Open Source (FOSS) meaning that the source code is available online for anyone to browse, download and/or tweak. This is a great model it means that any security holes can be caught and fixed by a community of technical people, and also offers complete transparency so that third parties can ensure that nothing nefarious is happening under the hood.
The bad news
Sounds great doesn’t it? I’m really excited about the project, and will definitely be trying it out in the future, but the bad news is that it’s nowhere near ready, and this perhaps hasn’t been communicated amidst all the hype.
The main problem is that lots of people have started hosting the software from Github (the repository where the source code is managed and available for developers), despite it being in an alpha state (very very early pre-release). This is dangerous as there are still a lot of security holes that need patching up before it’s ready for the prime time. So perversely, Diaspora’s biggest selling point over Facebook (the control over privacy) is endangered by it having been open-sourced at an early stage.
The silver lining
I think that Diaspora SHOULD have been Open Sourced this early it’s given the tech community a chance to get involved and fix problems at an early stage. I just hope that it can stay out of the hands of eager users until it’s ready for a proper release. If it can come to market as solid, polished software I think it’s in for a fighting chance of being the movement or migration of a group of people from an established homelandthat it so aspires to be.
Guest Post by Graham Scott, Sr. Web Developer at Cubeworks, a web design company in Brighton, UK.