Rapid uptake of “anti-Facebook” site highlights data privacy fears

Over the past week, the internet burst with news on Ello, a new social networking site that is quickly gaining fame as the “anti-Facebook” site.

According to global press, over the past week, sign-ups were at an hourly average of 35,000 new users. The site, which began as a community for designers and artists, has since made registration on an invite-only basis.

Here’s its manifesto on the site:

“Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.

You are not a product,” declares Ello’s founders.

The site’s insane popularity only highlights users’ nausea over data privacy issues as well as social media sites race to monetise their businesses through advertising. Coming at a time where users have been in an uproar over the likes of the monolith of user data that Facebook is becoming, as well as how it might be using it, the site is obviously hitting a good note with the public.

The site promises not to sell ads, nor any user data to third parties.

“Virtually every other social network is run by advertisers. Behind the scenes they employ armies of ad salesmen and data miners to record every move you make. Data about you is then auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers,” reads a note on the site.

“Collecting and selling your personal data, reading your posts to your friends, and mapping your social connections for profit is both creepy and unethical. Under the guise of offering a "free" service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.

We also think ads are tacky, that they insult our intelligence and that we're better without them,” said the site’s note.

It plans to monetise the business by offering special features to users that they can choose to pay for. However, industry watchers have expressed doubt over how the site will really profit in the long-run.