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Google and Facebook Join DataPortability.org 60

Posted by kdawson
from the step-out-of-the-walled-garden-and-smell-the-flowers dept.
technirvana sends us to ReadWriteWeb for the scoop on the announcement this morning that representatives from Google and Facebook are joining the DataPortability Workgroup. Quoting: "The group is working on a variety of projects to foster an era in which users can take their data from the websites they use to reuse elsewhere... Good bye customer lock-in, hello to new privacy challenges. If things go right, today could be a very important day in the history of the internet. The non-participation of Google and Facebook, two companies that hold more user data and do more with it than almost any other consumer service on the market, was the biggest stumbling block to the viability of the project. These are two of the most important companies in recent history — what's being decided now is whether they will be walled-garden, data-horders or truly open platforms tied into a larger ecosystem of innovation with respect for user rights and sensible policies about data."
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Google and Facebook Join DataPortability.org

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  • Oh, please... (Score:2, Insightful)

    "Walled-garden, data horders"???

    Nothing like emotional polarization rather than rational discussion. Is the poster running for president or something?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by monkeyboythom (796957)
      Wait...was that the OP I saw crying? Yeesh, I hate emotional postings...and dammit, who asked Dr. Phil to come in here?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by palegray.net (1195047)
      I was going to recommend talking to Google's stockholder's for rational discussion, but realized that probably wouldn't work either...

    • He missed a trick though. He could have said the choice was between "walled garden data hoarders or a 1984 style world where people have no privacy"
  • Despite the obvious gold treasure room that has now been created for spammers, hackers etc. etc., I look forward to this. It'll be nice being able to use a universal account online. It will be interesting as well, as I think we'll see more and more that people are going to be known by their avatars rather than their actual name as data becomes universal like this.
    • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:03PM (#21961084) Homepage
      I would like a system where the servers and services using the system doesn't actually have access to YOUR information, but rather has access to links to your information. That information would, in turn, be controlled by the owner of that information. Such a system would be truly opt-in creating a marketing system that people could truly opt-out of. It would also be immeasurably more valuable to marketers as the information would have a higher quality of demographic selection along with more guaranteed delivery of content.

      If such a system were to catch on, we'd be a lot closer to the end of spam and similar marketing practices. I can't imagine we'd be rid of it entirely, but wouldn't it be nice?
      • by drumbug1 (1140947)

        If such a system were to catch on, we'd be a lot closer to the end of spam and similar marketing practices. I can't imagine we'd be rid of it entirely, but wouldn't it be nice?
        The closer we think we get to the "end of spam", the farther away we will be.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by erroneus (253617)
          Perhaps it seems that way, but consider if this were viewed as the next evolution of email systems where the sender were more verifiable. I do believe that there can't be a security or privacy system that can't be broken or compromised, but if delivery of messages were contingent on the recipient's authorization rather like some instant messaging systems are today, the worst you might see is a constant flow of authorization requests which would be as annoying as direct spam, but could be presented to the u
          • by stuboogie (900470)
            Instead of sifting through a ton of spam email you would have to sift through a ton of authorization requests???

            I don't see how that would be better.
      • I have often thought of such a system. A rough idea of what I had thought:

        I feel it should work something like this: User signs up and assign retrieves a username and a password to sign into the service. While the user browses they can sign up at a website that supports the SSS (single sign-on service) (preferably through a 1-click system). The username and (randomly generated) password would be sent back to the SSS and stored on the users account. The user should be able to control specifically which bi
      • This is precisely the idea behind i-names [xdi.org] - sort of OpenIDs, but relying on an external database and not the DNS.

        However, the business i-name for google hasn't been even registered yet... So I believe that the chances of i-names widespread adoption are pretty low.

        Normal Internet users tend to rely on things that just work for them and find it too troublesome to set up complicated things like i-names (what's perfectly understandable). Unless any global IT corporation or government implements i-names and

      • by Foppel (23660)
        Spam will be spam, it doesn't matter if the spam will remotly be of any interest for me or not. If I didn't ask for the offer, it is spam.

        If the spam is targeted to my needs it will just get harder for filters to filter them out, as they match my 'usual' profile.
    • by zappepcs (820751)
      Yes, there are some downsides... I dont' worry about spammers, I worry about NSA operatives going to work for google or facebook. Worse than that is either of those companies going to work for the NSA.

      Yes, of course I can just kill my gmail account and not play nicely with the friendly policeman but I'd rather that I don't have to worry about it. More pointedly, I would rather that the control of that 'universal data' be in my hands, and not available for the terminally curious in our government.

      Perhaps I'm
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kadin2048 (468275) *
        Anonymity on the net is not quite what it used to be.

        This isn't true. You can be FAR more anonymous on the net today than you could 10 or certainly 15 years ago. The sheer number of people using it gives you a lot of cover; when there were fewer users and sites, it was a lot easier to backtrack and figure out who a person was.

        Plus, the privacy and encryption tools have gotten a lot better. I don't think there has ever been a time in history when individuals had access to encryption that's as secure as wh
    • by snotclot (836055) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:22PM (#21961446)
      > I think we'll see more and more that people are going to be known by their avatars rather than their actual name as data becomes universal like this.

      What's funny is that I go out of my way to make sure my avatar is unknown, in the sense that there is no tie with my real name in any way, on any website/forum/whatever. If you google my avatar, all you find is which websites I used that avatar, and what I posted using that avatar, but nothing else about me. In fact, I even switch avatars; one avatar for different websites.

      The threat I see from this is the potential that you cannot avoid having your real name linked to your avatar's... or you would have to go out of your way to maintain explicitly seperate online persona's: one for your actual name, and one for every avatar you choose!

      • Having your IRL identity linked inexorably to your avatar is indeed worrisome. What if I were to become very vocal about some of the practices of say, Viacom, and then I applied for a job there? My comments on their practices might have nothing to do with the scope of the work that I'm applying for, yet it could affect my chances of employment...or even get me fired if I was working there.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RealGrouchy (943109)

          What if I were to become very vocal about some of the practices of say, Viacom, and then I applied for a job there?
          Then you'd be a hypocrite (or a shill, or a sellout...), which you'd still be if your IRL identity and avatar are kept separate. It'd be your choice to apply for such a job, but you'd get cognitive dissonance up the wazoo.

          Speech is free--use it at your own risk.

          - RG>
          • Then you'd be a hypocrite (or a shill, or a sellout...)

            That's not necessarily true. I used to work at an engineering firm doing lab work. I was not very pleased with some of the engineers at the firm and how they handled themselves, as well as some of our field techs. I worked in the lab though, not as an engineer or field tech, so why would my opinion make me a hypocrite? I was perfectly able to perform my job while simultaneously thinking that the field techs were f-ing things up and the engineers d

            • That's not necessarily true. I used to work at an engineering firm doing lab work. I was not very pleased with some of the engineers at the firm and how they handled themselves, as well as some of our field techs.

              That's not what you said, though. Your OP talked about being critical of a company. IMHO, this means the practises the people in charge and their goals and/or decisions, not the competence of the people who carry out those decisions to do so.

              If you worked for a company whose goals you disagreed with, you'd be a hypocrite, as the work you do for the company implicitly goes toward achieving those goals. If you just work at a place where you have shit for colleagues, but the goals of the company align with yo

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nurgled (63197)

        This argument -- that is, the "I want to keep everything separate!" argument -- always seems to come up when stuff like this is under discussion. The important thing to bear in mind is that these technologies are there to enable you to link profiles and transfer data between sites. There's nothing forcing you to do so. If you continue to maintain a separate profile for each site, then you haven't gained nor lost anything.

        I currently have a "work" persona and a "personal" persona, plus a whole bunch of vaug

      • The upside to that is that people are likely to take their reputation more seriously, in a truly 'Global Community' sense. I suspect you'd see a drop in the amount of trolling and similar antisocial behavior, for instance.

  • by nguy (1207026) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:22PM (#21961448)
    Most of the data people want to move around has obvious formats, and where there aren't obvious formats, the first people to do something reasonable get to set the standard. What are some of the things Google and Facebook can do right now?

    There are commonly used formats for contact info, addresses, appointments, todo lists, notes, and bookmarks. For images, Google could offer downloading of a zip of an album or all albums. For documents and document backup, Google could offer downloading of a zip of a folder or the entire collection. Mail can be backed up via IMAP pretty well, but a zipped mbox file might also be nice. For information in search results and other web pages, Google could use microformats.

    So, talk if you like, but these companies can do a lot better than they are doing right now without waiting for some grand standard or consensus.
    • by irtza (893217)
      Other than for a warm-fuzzy feeling, what's in it for them?
    • by Jahz (831343)
      Seriously, why should "these companies" do any of that. Closed systems ensure lock-in, and lock-in is basically their business. The lock-in ensures that you keep coming back, keep viewing ads, keep paying for premium upgrades, etc.
      • by nguy (1207026)
        I dropped a for-pay service that tried to lock me in; it was great otherwise, but the lack of openness made it impossible to hook it up to other useful services. I think companies will find that that's increasingly the case.
  • by RobBebop (947356) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:30PM (#21961584) Homepage Journal

    Does Amazon participate in this? They hold a ton of personal data whenever I make a purchase from them. Hell, whenever I sign into their site they keep track of all the items I have ever viewed.

    It seems that there are so many ways for a website to get *my* data.

    (a) personal data supplied (forms on their site that I fill in),
    (b) friend data supplied (form on their site that my friend fills in),
    (c) browsing data semi-supplied (pages on their site that I look at),
    (d) 3rd party supplied data, (forms on other sites that I filled in)

    If all of these data sources cannot be controlled by the end user (what gets aggregated where)... then I am going to have to find myself another Internet.

    And yes, I don't like that Facebook gets personal data from 3rd Party Sites unless I specifically say they can (i.e. "Go Search Gmail for New Contacts to Add"). LinkedIn (I believe) does this search without asking you.

  • by owlnation (858981) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:34PM (#21961666)

    "Google and Facebook, two companies that hold more user data and do more with it than almost any other consumer service on the market..."
    and

    "These are two of the most important companies in recent history"
    TWO? No. Not even close. Google sure -- they have lots of user data and are surely important in the recent history of the Web. But Facebook isn't even the biggest in its own field. Love it or hate it, Myspace still has many, many more users and much more influence. They may still be drowning in OMG Ponies!!!1! glitter, but they have the backing of one of the worlds biggest (and scariest) media empires.

    Facebook is in all likelihood little more than a fad. They're not ground breaking, nor especially innovative, they are not leaders in their field (unless, maybe, you could user protest and rebellion figures).

    Thus, my conclusion is that this "article" was brought to you (at least indirectly) by the Marketing Droids over at Facebook.

    That said, the principle of portable data and removal of proprietary walled gardens is certainly a good thing.
    • Basically facebook is already two-faced, so their participation in this seems like it could be a mission to slow/derail/control development. Yesterday's article on facebook banning those who use aggregators from their site (with user permission) is just one example of where facebook does one thing and demands another.

      In addition to one-sided policies, facebook has a feature system that requires you to give full access to any application any of your friends is using/spamming you with--just to receive their
    • by DiscoLizard (925782) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @07:21PM (#21962280)

      Facebook is in all likelihood little more than a fad. They're not ground breaking, nor especially innovative, they are not leaders in their field (unless, maybe, you could user protest and rebellion figures).
      Microsoft aren't ground-breaking or especially innovative, but they seem to have done alright.

      Being successful isn't about being innovative and coming up with new products - it's about earning more revenue than your competition by (hopefully) providing a better service.

      I think, for the moment, the quality of data available to marketers is much better on Facebook than on Myspace. It therefore seems Facebook is likely to continue to grow - as the amount of advertising dollars flowing in likewise grows.

      Notice how many people put albums of photos on Facebook, compared to Myspace - it's a good indicator of whether they will stay with the service. What I've noticed is that people generally can't be bothered switching if it means going through all the hassle of setting up their photos again, even if they're prepared to set up their 'friend list' or whatever again.
      • by rtb61 (674572)
        The big catch with remaining with the lock in theory, is when people finally do get cranky enough to leave they leave in droves and only a minority will ever return. Basically the company seems to overnight go from a thriving power house to a bit of dead wood floating amongst the rest of the flotsam.

        Examples of which are, alta vista, wired, info seek, excite, orkut and even more examples at http://www.disobey.com/ghostsites/mef.shtml [disobey.com]. So will faceboook, myspace or even google join them, possibly, the powe

      • by cmacb (547347) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @08:43PM (#21963224) Homepage Journal

        Notice how many people put albums of photos on Facebook, compared to Myspace - it's a good indicator of whether they will stay with the service.

        Are you confusing Facebook with Flickr or Picasa? Facebook runs a Java program that spends ten minutes converting my beautiful hi-res photos to postage stamps. The results are pathetic! 50meg in 2meg out.

        If you pay attention you will notice that Facebook doesn't do any heavy lifting on their servers. They leave that to the ap writers, and even so, the service was grinding to a halt in December. They'll have to reinvent their infrastructure to scale and by then the world will be bored with their walled garden.

        I think Facebook joining this group is too little too late. Let's see them actually make some content exportable (not that I want my postage stamp pictures back or anything).

        On the other hand, nothing is new about Google joining this group. Everything is Google is exportable right now. they are already walking the walk, while Facebook is just talking the talk (and running in the other direction).
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by DiscoLizard (925782)

          Are you confusing Facebook with Flickr or Picasa? Facebook runs a Java program that spends ten minutes converting my beautiful hi-res photos to postage stamps. The results are pathetic! 50meg in 2meg out.

          The point of hosting photos on Facebook is not to be able to display high-res images, but to share 'good enough' photos with friends.

          Facebook has no need whatsoever to keep your original photo - as you've pointed out, picasa and flickr already fill that space.

          I don't keep my RAWs, TIFFs or PSDs on Facebook, I upload 800px jpegs that my friends might actually want to look at. If they want a larger version, I can direct them to my flickr or send it to them direct.

  • Google and Facebook join forces to sell your data for money.
    • by bogie (31020)
      The poster is modded Flamebait but how long till that comes to past? Is anyone here really naive enough to believe that in 5, 10, or 20 years every bit of data that Google has collected won't be sold to marketers? Maybe that data won't be super useful because Google will have unlinked users from their searches, but don't think for one second that do no harm will last forever.
  • I don't think TFA is being fair in its language when describing the possibilities of the DataPortability Workgroup becoming "walled-garden data-horders" or "truly open platforms". It somehow implies that the Alliance is more capable of governing the organization in a way that allows for an open trading of information. I'll let them know that our use of the Goblin Zeppelin technology is much more cost-effective and flexible than their under-ground tram system between Stormwind and Ironforge.

    Oh, they meant da
  • by Grendel Drago (41496) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @09:59PM (#21963970) Homepage
    As Mark Pilgrim said [diveintomark.org], "Praising companies for providing APIs to get your own data out is like praising auto companies for not filling your airbags with gravel." It's depressing that this isn't all a given.
    • by msormune (808119)
      Yes, but you can always remove your data from Facebook, for example... and put it somewhere else. Can you fill your airbag with gravel and put it back?
  • Has anyone read "The Scoble scuffle: Facebook, Plaxo at odds over data portability" (http://www.news.com/8301-13577_3-9839474-36.html [news.com]); why would Facebook join this, if they are doing something else like in the aforementioned story which I think you should all read!
    • by sciurus0 (894908)
      That's old news, it made it to the front page [slashdot.org] here. Facebook is probably joining DataPortability.org because of that brouhaha.
  • It's easy to advocate open data standards when you believe it will allow hordes of new customers to abandon your competitors offerings and flock to your products.

    Actually, this is probably why MS does not go for them.  If they really believed in the quality of their products, they would be a sincere advocate of open standards.
  • I know this is a bit old, but Dick Hardt's presentation at OSCON 2005 [identity20.com] is well worth checking out - and seemingly just as relevant today.

    Bonus points for the "Lawrence Lessig" presentation style too... :-)

  • ... does this mean that if I'm on Orkut, I'll be able to add a friend whose on Facebook, and interact with them flawlessly? If not, then this is just a distraction to what social networking should look like [sourceforge.net].

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