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February 29, 2012 News » Cover Story

Facebook-Killers 

Critics are building its replacements

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On a cold Friday evening in February two years ago, with a historic blizzard bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard, a small crowd of people bundled into a New York University lecture hall to hear a talk that would become something of a legend, a shot heard 'round the Internet.

The speaker of the evening was Eben Moglen, a professor at Columbia Law School and the founder of the Software Freedom Law Center. A stocky man with a white beard, glasses and a high, nasal voice, Moglen spoke casually and rocked back and forth on his heels as he turned to make eye contact with his audience.

“So, of course, I didn’t have any date tonight,” Moglen began, deadpan. “Everybody knows that. My calendar’s on the Web. The problem is that problem. Our calendar is on the Web. Our location is on the Web. You have a cell phone, and you have a cell-phone-network provider, and if your cell-phone-network provider is Sprint, then we can tell you that several million times last year, somebody who has a law-enforcement ID card in his pocket somewhere went to the Sprint Website and asked for the real-time location of somebody with a telephone number and was given it. Several million times. Just like that.”

In short, Moglen said, “the deal that you get with the traditional service called telephony contains a thing you didn’t know, like spying.” Continue reading this story, in its unabridged form, by picking up a print copy of this week’s City Weekly or by visiting VillageVoice.com.

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