6.12 Re-allocating Rights

Dynamic social systems re-allocate rights. Re-allocating rights lets an online social system evolve from an initial state of one administrator with all rights, to a community sharing rights. Rights to an entity can be re-allocated, as follows:

1. Transfer. Irrevocably re-allocates a right to another including the right to allocate that right, e.g. selling a house.

2. Delegate. Re-allocates a right but not its meta-right, so the allocation can be reversed, e.g. renting a house.

3. Include. Includes another in a right so they must jointly agree to exercise it, e.g. couples who jointly own a house must both agree to sell it.

4. Share. Shares a right with another so that both can exercise it as if they owned it exclusively, e.g. couples who severally own a bank account can each take out all the money.

While transfer permanently gives away a right, delegate temporarily gives it away as it can later be taken back. To transfer an edit right necessarily also transfers the meta-right, but one can transfer a meta-right without altering any other rights, e.g. when a landlord sells a rented property to another landlord leaving the tenants in place.

Including another in a right logically divides the right by allocating it to their AND set. For example, if a couple owns a house jointly then both must sign the sale deed to sell it and either party can stop the sale. To include someone else in a right requires the meta-right to allocate, i.e. one must truly own the entity involved. One can also include someone in a meta-right, in which case the ownership can only be revoked if they jointly agree.

Sharing a right with another logically multiplies the right by allocating it to their OR set. For example, if two people own a bank account severally, either party can take all the money out of it. Again to share a right one needs the meta-right. If a meta-right is owned severally, then any party can revoke the other’s right which is obviously risky.

The above re-allocation logic works for the ownership of an online document as it does for a house or bank account. One can transfer, delegate, include or share rights with different social results, e.g. sharing the edit of an online paper is risky but invites participation while including other authors is safe but makes editing harder, as every change must be approved by every author. Currently most online allocation involves the sharing of view rights.

Delegation. Delegating say the right to edit does not give meta-rights, so by definition the delegatee cannot pass the right on, just as renting an apartment gives no right to sub-let and lending a book does not give the right to on-lend it. The social logic is that if delegatees can delegate, then the original owner is no longer responsible, e.g. if one lends a book to a friend who lends it to a careless other who loses it, who is responsible? The owner has lost their property due to another they may not even know. Just as renting an apartment does not give tenants the right to sub-let or destroy it, so delegating say a forum thread to another does not allow them to delete or re-allocate it, giving the access control rule:

   Rule 13. Delegating a simple right does not give the right to delegate that right.

Allocating responsibility. When one gives an object to another that makes them responsible for it, so they must agree. For example, to register a car in another’s name both parties must agree. If one could unilaterally allocate car ownership, a person could dump a wrecked car in a public place then register it to someone else, who would then have to pay to remove it. Likewise allocating authorship to an online document requires consent, so one cannot add a paper co-author without their agreement. Access control would have to confirm by asking say: “Brian offers edit rights to the paper ‘Towards Universal Online Rights’, do you accept?The access control rule is:

   Rule 14. Allocating rights that make another personally responsible for an existing entity requires their consent.

Rights that imply responsibility include administrator rights, delete, edit, move and display. An interesting example is Wikipedia who allocated edit rights to the universal set of all people, which doesn’t imply personal responsibility. Letting anyone edit the wiki encouraged both contributors and vandals, people who edit pages to fit an agenda rather than facts. Since letting anonymous people edit lost accountability, they ended up banning everyone at the IP address of a vandal, which is hardly fair. It would be better to register everyone with IP address just one option, i.e. give people the choice.

Allocating rights without consent. In contrast, rights that dont change a target, like view or enter, can be given without consent. Likewise the right to create can be freely given because it implies no responsibility. The corollary is:

   CorollaryAllocating rights that don’t make another personally responsible for an existing entity do not require consent.

Rights that don’t imply responsibility for an existing entity include view, create, enter, copy, download and print. This rule lets lets space owners share enter, view and create rights with anyone.

 Friendship is not a trade. When social media say X wants to be your friend, what this implies is often not clear, except that it is a tit-for-tat trade of social rights, e.g. that if you let them view your stuff, you can view theirs. On Facebook it also lets them post on your timeline by “tagging” photos with your name, though it is never made clear why giving another the right to view your Facebook profile requires you to let them spam you with change notices from theirs. That one can turn this default off is irrelevant, and like a lot of other social media “features” it can change at any time. Rather than trial and error, why not design technology based on social experience?  In physical society one can be a friend without requiring the same in return, and one can love a child even if they do not return the same. Friendship is given not transacted, so this would favor messages like X considers you a friend. This is freely giving friendship as opposed to trading it. 

FOAF isn’t my friend. FOAF (Friend of a Friend) systems work as a “Find Friends” choice on systems like LinkedIn but the assumption that the friends of my friends are also my friends has no social basis. Friendship is not transitive, and early friend systems that assumed it was either failed or abandoned it, as people didn’t want it. Adding someone to my friend list does not give software the right the add all their friends to my friend list. Friendship simply does not work that way.