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Sharecropping is the act of storing personal data on 3rd party servers without owning the ability to control that data.

The term comes from the 18th and 17th century concept of wealthy landowners renting our shares of their land to former slaves or the impoverished and then extracting heavy taxes on them. A tenant farmer who gives a part of each crop as rent (rephrase - citation needed)>

just as wealthy landowners would rent out parcels of land to poor farmers, creating an effective new form of slavery, companies like facebook allow us free space and social integration/capital in exchange for our pictures, marketing information, etc.

highlight the dynamic of companies preying upon date

Not only do sharecroppers trust in the livelihood of a given 3rd party website, they also make their personal data available for the use of partners of the 3rd party website, such as advertisers. Facebook's users, for example, exchange their privacy and personal data for use of the free service. This understanding of 3rd party dependence lead to Douglass Rushkoff's to point out "Ask a kid what Facebook is for and they'll answer 'it's there to help me make friends'. Facebook's boardroom isn't talking about how to make Johnny more friends. It's talking about how to monetize Johnny's social graph".[1]

when you don't own your data. when you allow other site to host your data and own the data that you create. when you become reliant on third party sites. Making your data available to these services such as advertisers. Thy may disappear and take down your content. The ym ay remove your content because of their terms and considerations, and they do not have to inform you of the removal.

Example of AOL Hometown

On Nov 6th 2008 AOL removed user data from everyone who built a website using their service. There was a brief post on the front page of the Hometown website with a notification that all data would be removed in two weeks and that users should archive or backup their data in order to protect it from erasure. This post showed up on September 30th, 2008, giving users "4 weeks to figure out how to get their data off the servers, find a new place to send the data, get that arranged, and then do the transfer"[2].

Nov 6th 2008. AOL Homesites was an easy way for the general public to create home pages without any programming ability. Pages ranged from family photos and online albums, to online memories for mourned loved ones that had passed. The unexpected erasure of personal websites from AOLs servers caused general public outcry and anguish. It was one of the first examples of 3rd party data falling prey to the shutting off of a website. Since then, protective measures have been established for some communities such as Delicious, whose users and development community rushed to provide Delicious clones[3][4][5] and alternatives when a rumored threat of shutdown leaked out of Yahoo! headquarters in late mid-December 2010[6]

The Indie Web Movement is a step towards owning one's data. The inaugural Indie Web Camp[7] was held in Portland, Oregon on June 25-26, 2011.


  1. Rushkoff, Douglass. Speech at the Hello Etsy conference. Berlin, Germany. 17 Sept 2011.
  2. Scott, Jason. Eviction, or the Coming Datapocalypse. December 21st, 2008. Accessed July 15, 2009.
  4. Delicious XML Exporter
  5. Delicious Bookmark Clone Site
  6. Is Yahoo! Shutting Down? Dec 16, 2010. Accessed April 15, 2011.
  7. Indie Web Camp