Mar 01, 2024

Opt-out is always wrong

Selling user-generated content is the hottest thing in tech right now. It's a way for all those communities to cash in, now that ads aren't working. Companies acting like this is to be expected: If you're not paying for something, you're the product. So, when you upload a photo of your dog to Instagram, you're training Meta's AI. Makes sense.

However, it gets muddy when you're paying to publish using a service. Paying as in giving the company money, as opposed to paying by viewing ads. You should no longer be the product, but, for some, you still are, it seems.

I mentioned Automattic, makers of (and huge supporters of the open-source version of WordPress), and owners of social blogging network thingie Tumblr, the other day. They're selling data to AI firms, despite the fact that a lot of people are paying for These sites, on, shouldn't be considered the product – you're paying for premium services – but it seems that they are. (Free users is a different thing, then it's "just" a moral issue.)

You can opt-out, though. That's good.

It's also the wrong way to go about it. Anything being added to a service, if there's even a remote chance it'll be something that people aren't fond of, should be opt-in.

Opt-in should be the default.

Automattic knows this. Why else would they write this to respond to the criticism?

Regardless of geographic location, we want to provide you tools that grant as much control as possible. Since respectable companies do follow these settings, they’re the best method to enforce how content is crawled on the web.

Translation: We're not breaking the law here, and crawlers might read your blog anyway (true), but we want as much data as possible to sell ourselves, too.

Then, this bullet point:

We will only share public content that’s hosted on and Tumblr, and only from sites that haven’t opted out.

Clearly users has to check their settings on a regular basis because suddenly there are things added that you're not knowledgeable about.

Let me rewrite that for, Automattic:

"We will only share public content that’s hosted on and Tumblr, and only from sites that have opted in."

See? Now you're not greedy Big Tech anymore, and your users aren't the product. As it should be.