In this session from Techonomy 2011 in Tuscon, Ariz., Sean Parker, Managing Partner at Founders Fund and a co-founder of Napster, highlights some of the potential negative consequences of social networks. Also appearing in this video: Jim Breyer of Accel Partners and Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick.

Parker: One of the things that worries me—you know, look, in a sense governments have always utilized whatever communication mediums are available to conduct surveillance, either legally or illegally, and a lot of the surveillance has been far more intrusive than, you know, looking at information on social networks. In functioning democracies, this is done under the context of a subpoena, and it is—you know, it’s really no different than—actually, probably in a lot of ways less intrusive than tapping someone’s phone. So, you know, there’s this wealth of data that’s publicly available, and to the extent that you’re going to raise kind of issues in the public sphere, obviously the standard answer that we always come back to, that we’re always giving: you’re choosing to make this information available. It’s completely up to you how you want to represent your life online, factually or erroneously, potentially. You can be extremely smart and extremely clever about how you broadcast and to whom you broadcast what information.
So, that being said, you know, I do think that some additional capability is required when you take into consideration that these networks, or just the emergence of kind of group organizing technology, much of which is going to lead to the individual empowerment that we talked about, will actually lead to fringe groups and cults, and basically isolated whackos who are finally, for the very first time, no longer isolated whackos.
Kirkpatrick: Right.
Parker: That’s incredibly scary to me. When you take all these Unabomber types, who are essentially sitting alone in their bedroom with no ability to reach similarly crazy people, and you give them tools to organize, you know, you’re—it sort of leads to this threat that no one’s really talking about.