The Civic Trust
As our world digitizes, an increasing amount of our day-to-day life is becoming intellectual property. Someone else’s intellectual property. Someone else who can do, mostly, whatever they want with it. Most companies don’t make many promises about what they will (or won’t) do with that intellectual property.
Even those well-intentioned businesses that do, as Keith wrote, have a limited ability to keep their promises — and the way Terms of Service are written today, there’s very little we can do if a company changes its mind. That’s concerning on its own, but it becomes dangerous when those are the agreements that govern the way we access public institutions, representatives, and services.
For all of the incredible progress coming from the digitization of public infrastructure, the underlying organizations have limits — and those limits matter to how our relationships evolve. In business, the limits are financial stability and the fiduciary duty to maximize value for shareholders. In non-profits, they’re the dependence on closed-door decision-making by Boards of Directors and funders. In the open commons, the limit is that technology isn’t free like freedom or like beer — it’s free like kittens — and releasing something into the wild is a lot different than keeping it alive and fed.