Use social networking platforms and persistent online user data to serve public rather than private ends and combat climate change.
Many people are concerned about tracking and retention of user data by online service providers. It feels like an invasion of privacy that Google stores all your searches. These are valid concerns, and they are exacerbated by the fact that the information gathered is treated as the property of the companies gathering it.
This information could be a very significant public resource (after all, we generate it). Addressing the environmental challenges we face requires an understanding of the emergent effects of the behavior of the billions of individuals on this planet. Trends in what people are searching for, talking about, what they buy and how they use products and services are very relevant. Increasingly, a significant portion of these behaviors create digital traces in databases maintained by a variety of online service providers.
Were we able to turn this data around so that we could face it in public, it could potentially become an incredibly powerful driver of behavior change. One of the struggles we face is for people to really understand the consequences of their individual actions. We need to grasp more immediately the collective impact of the sum of our individual actions.
A thought experiment: Imagine a Facebook app that you sign up for. You provide it with the details of your electricity account and some details about your domestic setup in terms of consumption. When you log into Facebook, the app provides you with details of your personal consumption over time and entire user community's consumption over time. You can see how the community's average consumption has changed over time and estimates of the carbon footprint. Lets say you're incentivised to record energy efficiency measures you take. You can also see which measures have been most effective across the entire user base. You could create custom filters to view consumers similar to you and make informed decisions on what steps to take. This is one example. There are many more - suggest?