The desire to own your data

There’s been a flurry of discussions in the corridors of the blogsphere after the recent events between Robert Scoble and Facebook.  I’m sure that, in the case of both of those parties, all publicity is good publicity and that they are both seeing an increase in ad revenues in what would otherwise have been a sluggish month 🙂

Dare has blogged about this a few times, but most recently here.  I don’t actually agree with Dare.  He seems to believe that individuals – yep, all several billion of us – will be held in place over what data we share by some sort of ethical or moral constraint.  He concludes by saying:

Taking my data and sharing it with a third party without my permission isn’t cool. Just because I shared information with you doesn’t give you the right to share it with others.

Sure Dare, you and I can agree to that, but as the web of associations grow, age, and extend, it’s just not possible to use "it’s not cool" as the policing mechanism.  And are you saying that it’s "cool" if I do it manually but just not in an automated way?

Let’s take the scenario where you are my contact on Facebook and they allow me access to your contact details.  In my eyes, you are still my contact on other applications that I use too, and why should I be restricted to having to re-type all of that information if I would prefer to write a transfer script and automate it?

All of this brouhaha only adds weight to the need for a "segmented social networks" feature, whereby I can place contacts/associates into different groups and assign different privileges to them.  Then I can share my contact details with certain groups of friends but not others.  I’ve pretty much determined that I won’t use Facebook until such a feature exists.

This war about data will be won on features.  If Facebook had the "segmented social networks" feature *and* they allowed scraping, nobody would really care.  Once again… Facebook is wrong!


Other Interesting Related Links

Reciprocal Privacy for the Social Web (aka FOAF)


~ by D on January 7, 2008.

2 Responses to “The desire to own your data”

  1. It\’s like you didn\’t read my blog post. I explicitly stated multiple times that whether the data is entered manually or automatically via a script didn\’t affect the point I was trying to make.

  2. In the real world, social mores are one of many policing mechanisms. We have a criminal justice system because social mores aren\’t enough from preventing your fellow man from wanting to rob, rape and murder you. Similarly, social mores come into play when it comes to social software BUT they won\’t be the only policing mechanism. Facebook\’s prevention of screen scraping and the explicit blocks on the kind of data they enable apps to export from their DB is one sort of policing mechanism. The "social contract" between two users is what prevents a friend from blogging about each other\’s dates of birth, home addresses and telephone numbers without concern. You can rely on technology alone to police this stuff in the same way we don\’t rely on the criminal justice system alone to prevent people from being mean to each other. The culture and social mores of the community also come into play as well.

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