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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Data portability on social networks : Bain or Boon ?

Last week's Trend Candy (Trendhunter’s weekly newsletter) got me a catchy piece of news in their Hot trends section. The head line went like “Celebrity MySpace Hacking - Paris Hilton & Lindsay Lohan's Private Pics (GALLERY)”. After being a spectator to most of their private videos, the ‘private pics’ dint lure me as much as the phrase ‘data interoperability’ which was featured as a teaser for the aforementioned trend.
I decided to Google the phrase ‘data portability” and came up with the observations:

• is a work group, on the lines of ‘Open id’, that works on the philosophy of promoting the capability of controlling, sharing and moving data from one system to another thereby enabling the user to control, move and share all his personal identities and data.

• If enabled across a variety of social networks, it will allow the user to control all his accounts across these networks in a central manner. For example if you wish to change your email id from to , then using data portability , you wont have to undergo the pain of changing this across every other social networking website.
Furthermore, the myriad web apps that drive users crazy can also interoperate the user’s data across various networking websites. So you can buy your friend a beer or buy him for $x at social networking site A and sell him for $y on website B. All thanks to data interoperability.

• Even though data portability lets a user access all his friends and media across all the websites and widgets, there is a possible downside to it. Different websites and web apps govern the users with their own terms of service (TOS). So In case if a user wishes to interoperate from a popular social networking site to a lesser known website then there is a fair chance of TOS conflict and in the process the user may lose his rights over his own data, very aptly phrased by Nitin Borwankar at Gigaom as
“The real problem — and the elephant in the room – is not whether web app vendors “allow” me to take my data and go play elsewhere, but whether they “play fair” with my data when it’s in the web app.”
• Going ahead on the TOS conflict, in case a user wished to delete his account from website x, he would do that in a simple manner, but website X might have already provided his email and other identity details to all the networks in the DP workgroup. Which means, there exists a possibility that the user wont be allowed to delete his account from website Y, that already posses the ID details of the user thanks to data interoperability. The argument can be furthered to a point where certain websites allow users to make different friends group thereby restricting certain friends from personal data like say ‘birthday’ or 'relationship status', while other websites in the network might not respect the same set of restrictions thereby ensuring that the users privacy is not guaranteed.

Some social networks who have already adopted data portability
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*courtesy Techcrunch

With all these pros and cons, it seems data portability is definitely a novel initiative trying to sort out the mess for web2.0 users; but for it to implement, a heavy collaboration amongst various social networking websites is expected else the user would eventually land up into a bigger pothole trying to save him self from a puddle of mud.Till then, I'd recommend that you read all the TOS and stop the old habit of blindly clicking on "I accept the TOS" for the sake of safeguarding your own sovereignty in Web2.0.
These are my views from a little bit of browsing across the web, I'd like to know your comments to reach a more stable conclusion.

* picture courtesy

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1 comment:

Bhavik Vora said...

well i had thot of data portability as a killer app.. but i geuss the downsides of privacy issues overweigh the need of it !